Nobody wants to have the conversation. The one where you talk to your elderly parents – the people who brought you up and looked after you as a child – about their growing need for support in their home. The idea that they may have to leave their home to live in an assisted living facility or care home is even more difficult to deal with.
However, the time may come when it is necessary, and you have to work out how to talk to your parents – or other elderly loved ones – about care.
Giulia Turbiglio of the online care platform SuperCarers, helps you to prepare yourself for this difficult conversation.
Preparing for the conversation
Before having the conversations with your parents about care and getting help, you may want to do some research on the care options that are available to you.
Know what is available, and think of the pros and cons of each possibility. You may want a professional carer to come in to your parents’ home to help with household tasks or personal care. Or you may consider having the conversation about assisted living or a care home, if at-home options are no longer viable.
Each of these care options will have a different impact on your loved one’s life – keep that in mind when listing the pros and cons of home care, care homes and introductory services. Your parents may well have already given the matter some thought, just like you have, and may have better ideas than you about what would suit them best. It’s therefore a good idea to always keep an open mind when talking to your elderly relative about their care options.
Broaching the subject of care with your parents
You are now ready to introduce the subject of care with your loved one. There are many things you should consider when thinking about how to talk to your ageing parents about planning for their future.
First of all, the environment in which the conversation takes place can have a big impact. Try to talk with your relative in person rather than over the phone, make sure everybody is sitting comfortably, and turn off distractions like the TV or radio.
Your attitude and tone are important factors too. When having this conversation with elderly parents, treat them like the adults that they are. Even when they are losing their memory to dementia, or are struggling with physical pain and disability, they have needs and desires, as well as a right to have a say in how their lives are run.
Therefore, remember this is a two-way conversation, not a monologue on your part. Ask your relative what they want, and take that into consideration rather than dismissing it out of hand, even if it does not match what you had imagined.
Explain your concerns slowly and clearly, and put yourself in your parents’ shoes as you talk. You want them to understand what you are saying and why you are saying it. Be reassuring when you can, and truly listen to what they have to say.
Don’t interrupt them when they respond, or contradict them unnecessarily. It may be an awkward and difficult conversation, especially if they are resistant to the idea of getting help, but taking it slowly and always listening respectfully will help.
Personalised, high quality care can have a truly positive impact on your loved one’s life: it can empower them to keep their routine, pursue their life-long passions and hobbies, and preserve their independence.
These are some of the selling points you can touch on when talking to your parents about the benefits of getting care:
- “You’ll keep your independence”: One thing to bear in mind is that accepting care is not “giving in”. It does not mean that they will lose their independence. If anything, care enables them to preserve their independence and to stay in their home in a way that, without care, would not be manageable. Having support around the house and around their everyday tasks can even be liberating.
- “There will always be someone to help you in an emergency”: When you’re having the talk with elderly parents, be factual, for instance listing the times they have fallen or mentioning the time they left the stove on before bed. You don’t want to embarrass them, but you do need to stress why you believe assistance has become vital for them. Explain how a carer can help them feel safe in the knowledge that there’s always someone ready to help in case of an emergency.
- “An extra pair of hands can help you in your everyday life”: Some elderly people are intimidated by the prospect of somebody coming in to “look after” them, but are quite keen on the idea of help with some housekeeping. This is doable when somebody is well enough to live independently and doesn’t have a serious health or memory condition. It can then be built up over time, if needed.
- “Your friends have had good experiences with carers”: Your parents may well have friends in a similar position, some of whom will have accepted care support: it’s a good idea to mention the benefits those friends have experienced.
- “You’ll have a friendly face to chat with on a regular basis”: For many elderly people, having a chat with a young carer can be a breath of fresh air that really cheers up their day.
You may also want to look at our section on having optimistic conversations with your parents