As your parents age, you will likely notice them starting to fall behind in certain areas, whether they start neglecting their hygiene or forgetting to pay their bills. Your concern may be so high that you feel it is time to suggest hiring a caregiver to lend a hand. Many times, however, aging parents refuse this type of help.
While your parents certainly have the right to resist help, it can be very unsettling to think that they could be putting themselves in danger by insisting on doing everything on their own. Making matters worse, parents may be offended or angry when you suggest they need help taking care of themselves. What can you do when your aging parents insist they do not need help when you believe that they do?
Understand Their Resistance
It can be helpful to understand where your parents are coming from when they resist your help so you can approach the conversation in the most effective way. Keep in mind that getting older can be frightening. Your parents are in a stage of life that is very different from your own and one that neither you or they have direct experience with.
Many people’s identity is closely linked to their independence. When faced with the idea of losing control – whether it is from physical impairment, cognitive decline, or simply needing to delegate some tasks to caregivers – it is normal for people to feel frustrated, helpless and scared. After all, the activities you believe they may need some help with are activities they have been doing acceptably for most of their life. Acceptance is hard.
Adding to the resistance: think about how society views the process of getting old. It is generally associated with negative traits such as being less active, grouchiness, wrinkles, body aches and other things that can make people feel like they are somehow less valuable. The best thing you can do when you bring up the subject of getting help with your parents is to talk to them with understanding and empathy.
Evaluate Their Situation
Although it may be tempting to suggest your parents need help as soon as you notice something is “off”, resist the temptation to speak out in the moment and take some time to carefully evaluate your parents’ situation. What can they still do on their own? For which activities is help definitely needed? How much have your parents valued self-sufficiency? What are their living conditions right now, and what activities are they still able to participate in? This can help you determine where to start.
Keep It Positive
It can be useful to frame your conversation in terms of what you know to be important to them and their values. For example, if independence is important to them, let them know that getting some help with certain tasks will allow them to maintain their overall independence for longer. Instead of starting out by pointing out what they cannot do, praise them for areas where they are still very sharp.
Contact Services That Emphasize Aging In Place
Your parents may fear losing control over their lives, so emphasize the fact that caregivers are there for companionship rather than policing their activities. Services like Shepherd’s Center of Northern Virginia provide seniors with services that allow them to live a more independent and meaningful lifestyle. For example, they have volunteers that can drive seniors who are no longer able to drive safely to appointments and outings as well as people who are willing to carry out minor home repairs and a friendly visitor program.
These are small but incredibly useful ways that you can introduce help while demonstrating to your parents that it is still possible to maintain their independence while getting some support. Many communities have organizations of their own that offer services like Shepherd’s Center of Northern Virginia.
Give Your Parents A Few Options
To help your parents maintain a sense of control, provide them with several care options and let them make the choice themselves. This allows them to feel like you value their input and that they still have freedom of choice. Of course, you will want to make sure that all of the options you present will address the areas where they most need help. That way, no matter what they choose, you can be sure they will be getting the help that they need.
Introduce Help Gradually
It is never a good idea to suddenly make a dramatic change in your parents’ lifestyle as it can lead to significant distress. Gently introduce support by starting with smaller things like having someone come help clean the house once a week or pick up their groceries. This helps them adjust to the idea of accepting help and may even make them more welcoming of the idea.
Get In Touch With Shepherd Center Of Northern Virginia
If you live in the Northern Virginia area, Shepherd’s Center of Northern Virginia provides valuable services that support independent living for seniors in our community. These include food pickup and delivery, friendly callers and visitors, health advocacy, senior citizen transportation, minor home repairs, and learning courses. Reach out today to learn more about how we can help your parents live a full and productive life while aging in place.