Caring for a senior loved one who lives alone can come with challenges. One of the toughest challenges arises when older adults and their children aren’t on the same page about the “what and when” of aging support needed. Sometimes, then, by the time the senior adult is ready for support, there’s been a crisis (e.g., a fall), and they need a higher level of care than can be provided in-home.
To assist with overcoming resistance to getting the help that can extend independence at home, communication is key. Having an honest conversation allows you to express your thoughts and worries, and allows your senior loved one to express theirs, as well; it’s important to actively listen to their concerns. Some additional thoughts to keep in mind can help you both:
1. Senior care services do not have to be an “all-or-none” approach. Suggest a trial!
2. Be ready to compromise; don’t dig in your heels on the small details; rather, keep in mind the big picture.
3. Keep your loved one involved in the decision-making process as much as possible. As in all aspects of our lives, we are usually more accepting and comfortable about receiving help and support when we’re involved in the decisions.
Here are some questions to help identify older adult service needs and thoughts about how to discuss them:
1. Have they recently experienced a decline in physical ability, mental cognition, the loss of a loved one or independence?
2. Why may they be resistant to some support? Are they feeling vulnerable to these changes? Do they see it as an intrusion? A loss of independence rather than a support to their independence? Do they feel guilty about the financial burden on you? Think about how you might address all of these very valid feelings before you start the conversation.
3. What is the appropriate level of care needed? In your opinion, what level of care do they need? For example, do they need someone checking in at home? Simple daily or weekly phone check-ins? Would a weekly video chat with a master’s prepared health “partner” be of benefit? What level of care do you feel they would be accepting of? Would they be willing to try a particular service to prevent needing one they are resistant to? You may not be able to meet all their wishes, but it is important to keep them all in consideration.
4. Is there someone who can help you with this conversation? Are there family or friends that can help you have this conversation with your loved one? Or someone close who they’d be more apt to listen to than you? Would it be easier to have this conversation with their physician present?
5. What’s the best way to have this conversation? This can be quite a difficult conversation; it can cause a host of emotions, including agitation and fear. It may be appropriate to spread out the conversation over a period of time. Try to keep your own worries from escalating the tone of the conversation, and your loved one’s fears in mind; and let them know that the goal for both of you is to come up with the least intrusive but most effective way to keep them independent at home as long as possible, if that’s what they’d like.