What to Do When Your Aging Parents Reject Home Care
Maybe you’ve been concerned about your mom recently. As she ages, you’re noticing a few worrisome signs that her needs at home are about to evolve beyond her independence. Sure, you’d love to stop by the house more frequently to help, but with a career and family schedule, you realistically can’t take on this massive responsibility. It's a typical scenario in families, and it usually results in uprooting a senior to a nursing home or assisted living facility, retaining professional home care.
However, people can be stubborn, especially parents who may be insecure of a type of "role reversal" happening. Your parent not only refuses to leave home, but Mom or Dad is rejecting the very idea of a professional caregiver.
So how do you get them on board when they want to stay home but don’t want help from a professional caregiver? Here are five ways to find a caregiving compromise.
Talk Through Their Fears — and Yours
It’s not easy for your parents to admit they need help. The thought of having another person in the home to help them perform tasks that used to be routine could make them quite uncomfortable. Of course, over time, that professional caregiver can become a close friend and partner, but it will take time and trust-building.
Work through these fears with your parent instead of forcing a solution. When an adult child becomes too controlling, the resistance from your parents is bound to increase. A 2004 study from SUNY Albany found this to be true, stating that participants were ambivalent about receiving care and “use a variety of strategies to deal with their ambivalent feelings, such as minimizing the help they receive, ignoring or resisting children’s attempts to control.”
Though you may be frustrated by rejection and reticence, put yourself in their shoes. Be understanding, and once your parent feels understood, explain your point of view. Remember not to be patronizing or disrespectful, but share your genuine concerns about being able to stay home safely.
More Dancing, Less Wrestling
An expert in geriatric communication and family relationships, David Solie wrote a book about the best ways to navigate these difficult conversations. It was called “How to Say It to Seniors: Closing the Communication Gap with Our Elders.” Solie recommends the partnership approach and advocates for adult children to “put control on the table” rather than commandeering the process. He believes conversations about care should be “more dancing, less wrestling.”
To that end, he offers many tools to talk in more concrete, visual ways about the current situation and the proposed solution. His "dance cards" provide go-to strategies on topics like resetting expectations and minding the gap, and his caregiver “mind maps” allow a caregiver to lay out in detail all the aspects of care to be considered. You could also keep a journal of your parents’ changing care needs. All of these checklists and resources are especially helpful in getting buy-in from siblings as well, as your parents may not be the only ones opposed to bringing in home care.
Consider the Costs (Not Just Financial)
Staying home without any support can be risky. For one family, an aging spouse refused any sort of home care help. The family has been worried about his waning mobility. Ultimately, he suffered a fall, which led to a hospitalization and unfortunately, his passing — as he was not able to recover from the injuries he sustained. While no family can be fully prepared for a fall or other type of sudden health event, there are ways to prevent injuries and incidents that lead to such devastating outcomes — and having a professional caregiver as a presence in the home is one of them.
Of course, not every fall results in such a tragic outcome; however, the road to recovery can be a turbulent one for a senior who has fallen. Along with doubling the risk of falling again after falling just once, the sheer financial impact can be crippling. Click here to learn more about just how much a fractured hip can cost your parent.
All of this is to say, the risk of leaving Mom or Dad alone when he or she needs help isn't worth it, and you must discuss the risks with your parent.
Work With a Mediator
You’ve explored every avenue of persuasion, using all the logic at your disposal, but it may be there is just no convincing Mom or Dad that this is the best option. That’s when bringing in a neutral third party to moderate the conversation could make a difference in the outcome. Sometimes your parents need to hear the options, risks, benefits and challenges presented by someone who is not as emotionally invested as you are. A mediator may also be helpful in lessening the guilt burden many parents put on their children for considering home care. AARP offers these resources for finding a mediator, should this approach work best for your family.
Prepare & Present Options, But Let Them Choose
Empower your parents to make a decision about home care by gathering information on some providers. Ask for their input: what do they value in a home care company? What’s the budget? Talk about what a professional caregiver can do that they maybe never considered as an option: like providing companionship, or helping with housework and transportation to doctor’s appointments. Once you’ve gathered information on a few options, sit down together to discuss the pros and cons.
Remember: even as you partner with a professional caregiver, you will still play an important role as coordinator and advocate. Your opinion on a trusted provider is equally valuable.
Need more advice on building consensus on home care among the family? Check out these helpful tips.