Adult children caring for elderly parents often face significant resistance from loved ones when they suggest any senior care option. This resistance can feel out-sized, selfish, and at times even delusional to adult children who notice the challenges elderly parents face while navigating everyday life.
One of the most effective tools for overcoming resistance in any adult, especially when caring for elderly parents, is to reframe how we approach and communicate about the situation. In this post, we’ll share some of our top tips for reframing these conversations with elderly parents. For the purposes of the below, we’re assuming the adult children would like their loved one to consider bringing in some help at home to maintain their independence.
Step 1: Acknowledge their need for control.
Remember This: Elderly parents suffer significant losses as they age. They may lose spouses, friends, physical or mental prowess, community standing, etc. Elderly parents struggle to maintain control because they are losing it in so many other areas of their life.
Say This: Mom/Dad, I know you love your home, and you cherish the life you have lived here independently for so many years. Anyone would. That’s why I/we want to do everything in our power to support you and to help you maintain control and independence over your life and future decisions.
Step 2: State your intentions.
Remember This: We all act in our own self-interest at times with baked-in biases and preferences. You can take a great deal of pressure off you and your loved one by setting and expressing your intention to help them first. Let them know you’re not here to push them around, you’re here to help them act according to their wishes. Whenever you’re at odds or need to redirect yourself or your loved one, simply re-state this intention.
Say This: My/Our intentions are solely to help. I/we will stand by you and help you with whatever decision you choose. The important thing is that we stick together as a family and determine how you want to handle this so we can act according to your wishes.
Step 3: Outline any concerns.
Remember This: This shouldn’t be a laundry list of your loved one’s deficiencies. Instead, identify and organize your concerns and do your research. If you need a good place to start, think… “how have I been supporting this person to help them maintain their independence?”
Say This: As you know, I’ve/we’ve been very concerned recently about some incidences related to your memory and self-awareness. What may seem like simple forgetfulness to you now could easily lead to serious situations that could compromise your health and safety in the future. Since I/we can’t be present 24/7, even if something small occurs, it could be difficult for us to intervene meaningfully before something serious occurs. I don’t/none of us want to see you forced into making a decision outside of your control. That likely means acting before you feel ‘ready,’ but deciding now prevents us from being forced into a situation that you can’t control later. And it really helps me support you better.
Step 4: Transition to a discussion about the options.
Remember This: You do not own stock in these senior care options, so don’t over-invest in any option! Remember that ‘doing nothing’ is ALSO an option and decision that an independent and autonomous adult is allowed to make. If your loved one makes that decision (and many will!), the best way to address that is to gently but kindly set boundaries around how much support you can provide. And, to remind your loved one that by delaying or refusing to get help, they may have less choice in future.
Say This: Let’s talk about the options I’ve/we’ve explored recently and some ways you can maintain your independence and bring this situation under better control.
- Stay at Home Safely. Our/my understanding is that living at home independently is your highest priority. We/I totally understand and agree with that. But I/we need some support to help me/us do that. A Service like CarePods can help me/us with additional support to address some of the above concerns while also helping you stay at home and maintain your health. While it may take you some time to get used to having ‘new’ people coming into your home occasionally, we agree that this is an affordable and appropriate option that keeps you independent and at home where you want to be.
- Do nothing. In the event you choose this option, this means that I/we will need to be on-hand more to support you because of these concerns. Or, that I/we don’t provide additional support because I/we have other demands on my time. Then, we could wait until something ‘bad’ happens and you may need to be hospitalized or go to a facility. I respect your right to make this choice but want you to understand how it may impact me and you in the future.
Step 5: Repeat as needed while caring for your elderly parents.
Remember this: The conversation likely won’t flow this naturally or easily but try to stick to the outline if you get lost or hit a roadblock. The goal is to ‘go with the resistance’ instead of fighting your loved one. If staying home with help is their option of choice, GREAT, let’s make progress there.
If the option is to do nothing, you’ll need to reiterate that that is the only choice that stymies their ability to remain in control and puts you and the family in a difficult position. You’ll need to be firm and patient in reminding them that if they choose not to act; they’re asking you to do more and putting their future independence and health at risk.