As your parents get older you may notice more signs, that they could use some help with their everyday living. However, bringing up this topic of conversation can be awkward at best—and at worst, it may sour your loved ones on ideas like accepting senior assistance or moving out of the home and into a more permanent care facility.
How to talk to your aging parents about senior care will depend on your family and relationship, but still, there are things you can do to smooth the process and make the conversation fruitful and productive.
Getting Ready for the Conversation About Senior Care
The first thing you can do is to prepare for this conversation by getting informed on the subjects you need to raise with them. Do some research, and develop ideas such as the type of care or assistance that might best benefit your parent(s). It can feel overwhelming to think about getting “help” when you’re not sure what options exist and how they function, so take the time before the conversation to do your research.
The second thing is to compile some of your primary concerns about your parent’s current living situation. It can be difficult and emotional to think about these challenges amidst a conversation, so prepare your points beforehand. Are they struggling with toileting and self-care needs that a nurse could help with? Do they have health problems that would benefit from closer supervision than they receive at home? Or maybe their home is no longer safe because it does not have the tools and accessibility amenities required.
Prepare these thoughts before you start the conversation so that you have an idea of what to cover and so that you can do so without emotional judgments.
What to Say
The time has arrived, and you are ready to talk with your parents. It can be tough to broach these topics. Consider conversation starters like:
- Do you still feel safe living at home? (This is a great time to discuss relevant concerns you prepared beforehand.)
- Would it be less stressful not to worry about taking care of the house anymore?
- Are you interested in different transportation options, so you don’t have to worry about driving?
- What do you want to happen if you get sick or hurt and can’t take care of yourself?
These conversations are best begun with open questions rather than direct ones—e.g., “Are you ready to move into a nursing home?” Right now, the best thing to do is tease out information first so that you understand their perspective. Also, use your questions to shape their perception toward thinking about the benefits to them of finding solutions and away from too much of a focus on their deficits or inabilities. This can make them defensive and less open to solutions.
How to Ensure the Most Effective Conversation
These conversations can be challenging, but a little empathy goes a long way. The most important thing you can do in such a conversation is to listen; no one likes being told what to do, especially when it clashes with their wishes. Demonstrate that your concern is motivated by your love for them and your desire that they are well and well-cared for.
Also, have this talk sooner, before major problems arise. This gives your parents time to think rather than having to rush to choose. This allows time not only for conversation and follow-up chats but also for your parents to consider the information. At the moment, they may be taken aback that you are suggesting they need help, but given time to process, they may agree and begin to take a more proactive approach to their care.
In situations where additional care is needed either in or outside the home, consider exposing your parents to the alternative before a decision is made. For example, a visit and tour of a daycare senior center may help alleviate their fear and even excite them by the activities. Actively visit potential care services, whether a nursing home, an assisted living facility.
Ask these questions: Do you have transportation if my parents can’t safely drive anymore? Can my parents talk to people who live in specific communities? How are the meals? What are all the activities which would be available? Can my parents meet some of the other seniors in this program? Etc. This can help to assuage your parents uncertainties and even excite them with the possibilities.
Finally, understand that this is not your choice unless you are in charge of making decisions for them due to their legal inability to do so. You can help to guide them toward a productive and healthy support system, but in the end, whether they accept or refuse is their decision. How you handle the conversations with them, and the process of choosing, can be the difference between success and failure.
Resources Are Available to Help
Discussing senior care with your aging parents can be a tender topic, but it can also be productive and powerful when approached with sensitivity. If you need help understanding the resources available to your family, Shepherd’s Center of Northern Virginia can help. We assist older adults in finding community and aging in place when possible.
Reach out to learn more or to equip yourself with the knowledge you need to help your parents enjoy their older years safely and happily.