Your loved one is getting older and you know they’re struggling with day-to-day life.
Maybe you’ve noticed they rarely prepare a hot meal. Perhaps they’re missing doctor’s appointments. You’re increasingly worried that their safety, health and well-being could be at risk.
If you’re recognising the signs that some form of elderly care support would help, a difficult discussion lies ahead for your family.
Nobody would choose to have this conversation. But if the time has come for your elderly parent or relative to receive care, talking with them is essential.
Here we outline how to approach the subject with knowledge, empathy and patience.
Before even mentioning the idea, do your research. Uncertainty can be scary and cause unnecessary distress, so arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible.
Find out about what types of care are available, how to access it, how to pay for it and what options are available to you locally, whether it’s a care home, homecare or other service for the elderly.
A good place to start is Holm’s guide to understanding and accessing elderly care, including choosing the best quality homecare. It will give you a clear overview of your options and help answering any questions easier.
Making a pros and cons list can help here. Consider your loved one’s situation, personality, needs and overall well-being. Would daily visits from a home carer to help with cooking and cleaning suffice? Would they benefit from downsizing and moving into sheltered accommodation? Or would a residential care home offering 24-hour care better meet their needs?
And there’s no need to do this alone. Seek support from family members and friends. They may have gone through the same process and have some helpful advice, as well as being less emotionally involved in the decision.
Finally, keep in mind that even though you may not have spoken with your loved one yet doesn’t mean they haven’t been thinking about care themselves. They could well have made a pros and cons list of their own, so be prepared to work together to find a solution.
Introduce the Subject Slowly
Arriving at your loved one’s home with a brochure from a local residential care home is unlikely to go down well.
Instead, introduce the subject slowly, sowing the seeds of the idea without patronising or rushing them.
You can ask them how they’re finding moving about in their home or whether they’re eating regularly, gradually encouraging them to think about how life may be changing for them.
Beyond their own challenges, perhaps mention how a friend’s parent has a great home carer who visits every day to prepare a hot evening meal. Or chat about memories of their parents’ happy times in a residential home.
When you’ve laid some foundations, pick a day when you’re not busy and a place where neither of you will be distracted by other people, the TV or a mobile phone ringing.
No matter how poor their memory, approach this as a two-way conversation with a fellow adult. Outline your concerns, listen carefully to their responses, don’t interrupt and always take their feelings on board. Your opinions might clash here so be patient, show empathy and appreciate their right to have a say in their life.
This stage can easily be awkward and emotionally difficult. Putting yourself in their shoes can help here. If they appreciate your understanding that getting old is scary, they’ll be more likely to open up. Work with them to discuss possible care options, explain your concerns and accept any initial resistance with grace.
Hang back on mentioning personal care such as bathing and help with going to the toilet until you feel you’re getting them on board with the basic idea
Your first conversation may not be successful so give them time. It may take several more before you get a breakthrough.
You don’t even need to wait until their growing care needs become obvious. Talking about the future before their health and mobility starts to decline can help ease the care conversation.
If you already know that they’d prefer to have a home carer than move out of their home, you can suggest that first when the time comes. You’re then more likely to get a positive response and can set the wheels in motion quicker.
Share the Benefits
If your loved one has doubts, highlighting the positives of receiving elderly care can sway them towards acceptance.
High quality, personalised care can deliver numerous benefits:
- Maintain independence: with a dedicated home carer, they can easily stick to their routine, keep up with their hobbies and feel liberated by getting help with everyday household tasks.
- Gain reassurance: being looked after by a professional carer means they’ll always have someone to turn to in an emergency. If close family live far away, this peace of mind of priceless.
- Relieve boredom and loneliness: homecare visits from a friendly, familiar face will become a highlight of the day, offering companionship as well as care.
- Reduce household chores: after decades of washing dishes and dusting surfaces, who wouldn’t welcome someone to take these tasks off their to-do list?
- Ease family worries: regular care visits will reassure relatives that their loved one is safe and looked after.
Make Plans Together
Once your loved one is on board with the idea of enlisting elderly care, you can start to make plans together.
You could make a list of the ideal care scenario. Start with what they have difficulty with and what they enjoy, focusing on their day-to-day wellbeing. Move on to where they’d like to live. Listen to their thoughts while doing this together and keep an open mind.
Then ask: Is this plan achievable? What would it involve? What will it cost? How soon could it be introduced?
Involve them at every stage to prove that their opinion is valued and they’re still an independent person with a say over important decisions.
For instance, they could choose their own home carer or opt for a period of respite care to experience a favoured elderly residential care home.
Keeping the conversation honest and open at this stage will help make the process more straightforward for all.
What to Do If You Face Resistance
If, despite gentle reassurances and persuasion, you’re faced with a firm “no”, aim to understand why.
Your loved one may have concerns about privacy, welcoming strangers into their home, money worries or a fear of losing their freedom and independence.
Keep focusing on the positives of expert elderly care, giving them practical options and emotional advice while listening carefully. You can also enlist support from a doctor, social worker or priest whose professional opinion might be taken on board more willingly.
Accept that it may take a fall or other health problem to act as a trigger to change their mind. And, most importantly, accept their decision with love and compassion. You can’t force them but you can revisit the issue at a later date.
If your family is at the beginning of their elderly care journey, take your time to find out the facts before discussing options with your loved one.
Be informed, be patient and make sure any decision is guided by love and respect. You’ll then reach an ideal solution that suits everyone.
Find out more about how personalised homecare from Holm can meet your loved one’s needs.