With more than 47.8 million adults over the age of 65 in the United States, many family members face the challenge of caring for their needs. With the population of the elderly increasingly dramatically, along with what they need to keep them healthy and productive, families often have to deal with deciding when it is appropriate to pursue help.
Often, older individuals are opposed to the idea of a care home or nursing home. This may even be if they actually need it. Home health care services provide an in-home alternative for them. However, just because they are allowed to stay in their home doesn't make it necessarily a more attractive alternative.
Some aging individuals, even in the population of the 5 million adults suffering from dementia, are not keen to have any sort of help. Accepting help can feel like accepting they are ill or struggling, so many would prefer to put it off.
In this article, we'll talk about some of the ways you can help your parents warm up to, and eventually accept home healthcare.
- Put Yourself in Their Shoes
Before you have a conversation with them, put yourself in their shoes. While it isn't possible for you to completely understand what it is like to age and begin to lose the capacity to care for yourself, try to imagine yourself in this situation. After all, you will most likely have this conundrum to face in your own life as you age as well.
Having empathy surrounding your parents' needs will help you approach the topic with sensitivity. If you're overwhelmed caring for them, or you can logically see they need more help than they're willing to accept, it can be frustrating. It can be tempting to lay it all out on the table without regard to how they feel about the situation.
Recognize that this isn't easy for anyone. Therefore, you need to be sure that when you speak to them, you take their side into account. Consider it and address each of their concerns with sympathy and empathy.
- Be Honest About How Much You Can Handle
While you may be nervous about doing this, you need to be straightforward with your parents. If you're bogged down by caring for them because of your other responsibilities and you want in-home healthcare to take some of the burdens off of you, you need to be up-front about this.
Continuing to care for your parents, even when you feel overwhelmed, can create caregiver burnout.
Many older people want to rely on their family because they may see themselves as a burden to others. They also may not want people they don't know to see them in a vulnerable state. While this is totally normal, you also can't be a superhero and do everything.
Discuss with them how caring for them has impacted your life.
Explain that while you want them to continue receiving great care and that while you'll continue to visit, you cannot continue at this pace. Let them know that they are not a burden to you or your family, but that it is not possible to care for them at the level they require now and continue to put everything you need to into other areas of your life.
This may be a difficult conversation to have, especially if one of your parents suffers from dementia. However, honesty is the best policy, and they will likely be glad you told them how you feel in the long run.
- Discuss Your Parents' Wishes
Respecting your parents' wishes is incredibly important. While it may not be possible to meet all of them, you can attempt to meet them halfway. Discuss with them alternatives to in-home healthcare or come up with agreements that can help meet their needs as well as yours. For example, if they are comfortable with in-home healthcare three days a week, and you feel as though you can care for them two days a week, try it this way.
Changing routines can be frightening and confusing for people with dementia, so be patient and try to respect their dignity as much as possible. Even if their wishes cannot realistically be met, at least speak to them about their wishes so that you can keep them in mind.
- Do Not Get Angry or Yell, Especially If Your Parent Has Dementia
If a parent is refusing in-home healthcare, it can be very tempting to get angry with them and raise your voice. This is especially the case if you know that their refusal has a negative impact on your life, and/or the lives of your own immediate family members.
While it is certainly stressful to try and negotiate some of these terms, you should still remain calm and speak in a regular tone of voice.
If your parent has dementia, yelling can be quite frightening and distressing. In some cases, if your parent has suffered trauma as a child or younger person, yelling can actually trigger that, even if they have not spoken of it or addressed it in years. This can make the situation much more dramatic than you ever intended it to be, causing angst and anguish.
Remaining as calm and collected as possible is the best way forward for these conversations.
- Get Your Parents in on the Interview Process
If you have a choice of who can come in and care for your parents, allow your parents to help you with the interview process. Don't decide who will care for them.
Have a few people come over and meet your parents and discuss their needs with them. While you do need someone who is qualified for the job, you'll also want someone who "clicks" with your parents.
If they find a person whom they enjoy the company of, they may actually begin to look forward to having their in-home healthcare. Finding a caretaker that can help put them at ease during this difficult time can make all of the difference.
- Discuss Your Parent or Parents' Fears
If your parent has dementia or another mental illness, his or her fears regarding having in-home healthcare may not make much sense to you. But even if your parent doesn't have dementia or mental illness, their fears or hesitations may seem, in a way, a bit unreasonable.
However, if your parent doesn't feel as though you're listening at all, this can foster resentment and anger. So, the two of you, or you and your siblings and/or your siblings' partners should sit down and address all of your parents' fears.
Have them tell you everything that frightens them about in-home healthcare. Make sure you acknowledge that you've heard what they have to say, and the respond thoughtfully. Even if the worry seems unfounded or "strange" to you, it is still very real to your parent. As such, you want to make them feel as if they're being listened to and not ignored as the decision is made.
- If Your Parent Has Dementia, Keep It Simple
Those who have dementia may have trouble continuing a line of thought or constructing a reasonable argument. They may also have trouble listening to you if you have a long explanation of why they need in-home healthcare.
In this case, while you should listen to and address their fears, keep all of the information simple. Let them know that you and/or your siblings are thinking about in-home healthcare and that someone will be coming over to help them.
They may be confused as to why you're telling them this, or what the person will help them do. In this case, as little information as possible is the best route.
- Thoroughly Vet Any Home Health Care Services
If your parent doesn't have dementia and is reticent to use in home health services because of horror stories they may have heard from friends or family, make sure you do a lot of research on the company.
For both of your peace of minds, you'll want a company you can trust, one that will treat your loved one with dignity and compassion and one that provides quality care.
Doing as much research as possible, and sharing it with your parent can help put their minds at ease. You may also want to speak to their friends or your friends who have had parents use in-home health care. Discuss the best services they have used and if they've been happy with them.
Having a friend vouch for a certain company may mean a lot to your parents. If they don't have dementia, let them speak to people who have used the service before to put their mind at ease.
- Don't Bring Everything Up at Once
While for you, it may seem like everything has come to a head and your parent now needs care, your parent or parents may not see it that way. Instead of ambushing them with the idea of in-home health care, start small. Ask them about their daily needs and how they're getting around. Discuss what could change to help them get around better.
After your parent or parents have gotten used to the idea of possibly needing more help, speak to them about hiring in-home help.
- Give Your Parents Options
If your parents or parent has advanced dementia, giving them options can be confusing and frustrating. In that case, it is best to be as direct as possible and make the decisions for them.
But, if your parent or parents are still in the early stages of dementia or do not suffer from it at all, giving them options is important. No one likes to be treated like a child. It may already be difficult to mentally accept that they cannot do many of the things they used to enjoy doing or things that need to be done around the house.
As such, telling them you've found a health care service and they're using it, no questions asked, can make things very difficult for them. It can also make them feel infantilized. Speak to them about all of the available options for them. Then, work together to find the best one for their circumstance.
- Accept If They Choose Not to Have In-Home Health Care Services
There are certain exceptions to this rule. If they are not safe at home, are at risk of falling or having a major episode or have advanced dementia, you cannot accept your parent or parents' choice.
However, if your parent does not have any major issues surrounding not accepting help, you must make the decision to accept this. You may tell them that you physically or mentally cannot help as much due to your own schedule, but as long as they're okay with this, you'll need to allow them to make that decision.
Keep an eye on the situation, however. If safety issues come up, you will need to make the decision for them.
Choosing the Right Care Service
Choosing the right care service can seem overwhelming. With so many qualified home health care services, you may not know which one to choose. But, with a bit of research, and your parents' input, you'll likely find the perfect match.
If you're in St. Louis or St. Charles and are looking for a service to help your parent stay in their home, contact us for a free assessment. We can discuss whether we are the right fit for your unique needs.