“I’m perfectly capable of managing my own affairs!”
“I don’t need a babysitter!”
“The house is already clean!”
“I can bathe/dress myself, thank you very much!”
You’ve probably heard these lines a hundred times by now. Your aging parents are perfectly fine and don’t need you or anyone else to help them with their activities of daily living. But their living conditions and physical appearance tell you otherwise. The house is in disarray, they are wearing dirty clothing, the refrigerator is empty, cupboards are bare, hygiene is being neglected…all signs that it’s time to look into getting in-home assistance.
But how do you convince headstrong, independent, reluctant parents to accept someone coming into their home to give them the help they obviously need, but are not willing to accept? How do you get them to admit to the fact that they aren’t as capable as they once were?
While there are no one-size-fits-all or easy answers, some of the suggestions below could help get the ball rolling in convincing your parents that they could benefit from a helping hand.
- Acknowledge their fear. For many seniors, accepting the fact that they need help is threat to their independence. They may feel that this is the “beginning of the end” for them and will try to put off any sort of assistance for as long as possible. But nothing can be further from the truth. Accepting help NOW will help ensure your parents can stay in their home so that they don’t lose all their independence LATER.
- Approach the topic gently. The next time you visit your parents, point out that you’ve noticed things getting a bit dusty in the living room or that there are piles of dirty clothes in the hamper. Ask them how they’re managing with household tasks. By asking open-ended questions in a non-judgmental way, your parents won’t feel that you’re intruding, but rather, are concerned about their well-being, meaning less chance that they’ll get angry or defensive to your queries.
- Start with housekeeping. Assistance with housekeeping is actually one of the least threatening types of help and could be the most appreciated for parents reluctant to accept in-home help. Highlight the benefits of having someone come over a few times a week to take out the trash, do the laundry, clean up the kitchen and bathroom or prepare a light meal for them. Introducing in-home care on this level will make transitioning to personal care assistance that much easier.
- Addressing the financial elephant in the room. Besides being seen as a threat to their independence, most seniors resist help due to finances. This does not have to be a dealbreaker for your parents getting the help they need. Sit down to review their finances to see exactly what they can afford to spend on help. Stress the importance of spending some money up front now as a fall, poor nutrition and bad hygiene are all risks that can lead to costly hospitalizations and a subsequent medical evaluation that finds they are incapable of living autonomously at home. If you have the means, you can even pay for their care yourself or, if you have power of attorney, you can make the payments on behalf of your parents without them ever seeing a bill.
- “Try it on for size”. This is great way to introduce home care to your parents. Explain that this is just a trial run to see if having a helping hand from time-to-time benefits them. If the help is characterized as “just for now” or “temporary”, they will have an easier time getting used to the idea of someone coming in for assistance. By the time the “trial period” is “over”, they might look forward to home care visits and even form a friendship with the caregiver assigned to their care needs. But understand that things will not change overnight.
Being proactive now and getting in-home care while care needs are minimal will help keep larger independence issues at bay so that your parents can stay in their home for as long as possible.