how to talk about senior care services

Five Ways to Talk to Your Parents About Getting Help in the Home

We frequently hear from adult children struggling to “convince” their parents to get help. Most times, the kids know their parents need senior care services. But, their parents don’t feel the same. Today, our experts will share five great approaches for talking about getting help in the home.

Before you get started, make sure to plan what you want to say. Do a practice run, especially to work through some of your emotions. Talk through what you’re feeling with other family members, a friend, a care manager, or your therapist. Work through past resentments, anger, etc. so you can present a more tempered point of view.

Set the right TEMPO. TEMPO stands for Timing, Experience, Motivation, Place and Outcome. We’ve included this concept in our information below, but you can also read more in our Resources section.

Five Approaches to Talking About Senior Care Services:

Talk about what they want, not what you think they need.

Approach the conversation as an opportunity to get help with things like housekeeping or grocery shopping. Are they ordering lots of carry-out food? Maybe having a “personal chef” come in to cook would be appealing. Does Dad hate dealing with laundry but loves his shirts pressed? What about a short-term project like cleaning out the closets or shopping for holiday gifts?

These can be easy ways to introduce help in the home. It doesn’t feel like “senior care services” or admitting a need for help. Short-term or task-based help can feel like less of a commitment. Your parents get used to having help and can more easily trust the person to do more. We find that in almost all cases the clients come to love having help. It feels like a luxury. They get a break from mundane tasks. Even when someone’s pretty active, certain tasks become difficult or tiring. For others, it is stuff they never liked doing (or learned how to do).

Tell a story.

Personalize and use stories. Facts tend to be ineffective in breaking down a strongly held belief. Instead, share a personal story that paints the picture. Use conversation starters. Talk about your own situation, such as how you’ve prepared or gotten help with certain household tasks. If a neighbor is using senior care services, perhaps they can share their positive experiences directly. Talk about an unfortunate situation of someone you know who had a crisis at home.

Put the conversation in a positive context. For example, you might praise your parents on how they’ve handled retirement. Mention how you appreciate the way they keep on top of their health. Ask for advice. Empower them, help them to feel part of the decision-making.

Use windows of opportunity and plant seeds.

Plant seeds and let the conversation grow over time. You’ll find it more difficult if you wait for a crisis. Often, when your parents are already having difficulties they’re more defensive. They see what is happening and fear admitting to it. Begin talking about what they want as they get older. Chat about different scenarios. Share what you want for yourself. Talk about examples of your friends’ parents or their friends.

If your parent gets a new diagnosis, it’s a great time to review what might be needed. It might be as simple as an app to manage medications. They may realize it’s time for a “fall button” after an episode of dizziness. The doctor can be an ally in suggesting senior care services or tech related to the condition. Check in regularly and listen to their concerns.

Maybe you offer to hire someone to help with cleaning while they’re recuperating from the flu. Post-hospital/surgery care feels more like a medical prescription than a life change. Don’t let these “windows of opportunity” pass.

Talk directly about things that may be holding them back. Listen, examine their concerns.

Your parent may not admit their concerns outright. Listen closely and ask questions. Often, elders fear losing their independence. They think this is the first step toward a nursing home. Listen for unspoken clues. Address it head on. Show how getting some help at home has kept others out of a nursing home.

Another common concern is how they will “entertain” someone in the home. They feel like this person will be in their space. It seems like a burden if they need to give direction constantly. Again, deal with this right up front. Offer a trial so they don’t feel committed. Make sure you work with a home care company that addresses this.

At EasyLiving, we know this is a top concern. Therefore, we build a comprehensive care plan based on the client’s needs and desires. It directs the caregiver in daily duties. The client doesn’t have to constantly worry about occupying the caregiver. There won’t be a time when the caregiver doesn’t know what to do. And, we follow up with proactive supervision and customer feedback. After you’ve waded through the difficult conversations, we want to set you up for success. Make sure to ask these questions of any senior care services before hiring.

Don’t try to “fix” everything at once. Sometimes you have to know when to back off. Start small. 

Bring in help from a third party.

Think about your approach ahead of time. Who should be there to help? Is there a family member who Dad listens to most? Can you talk to their doctor about making the suggestion? Do they consult with their pastor about important issues? Or, is there a friend who could share a story of using senior care services?

Engaging a care manager may be your best bet. First, the care manager can find out a little about your parents’ situation and make targeted suggestions. She can offer advice on how to approach the conversation and even facilitate it. The results might surprise you!

The care manager can also help you gain perspective. Everything may feel like a crisis when caught up in the emotions. You may be imagining worst case scenarios. With a care manager’s help, you can prioritize what needs to be done immediately. They can assess the current situation and needs. In the end, you’ll have a plan...a roadmap to guide you.

Also, the care manager can help you set boundaries. The goal is to empower the client to make decisions and deal with the consequences. (Of course, in some cases such as advanced dementia, the care manager can also assess when the person may not be competent to make such decisions. In those cases, they can recommend a course of action.) With the aid of the care manager, you can be clear about what you can and cannot do to help. For most of us, this is tough to do...so the support of the care manager can be invaluable.

Help Talking About Senior Care Services: Resources

Talk to a care manager about your situation.

How to Say it To Seniors by David Solie

This book explores the reasons that communicating with the older adults is sometimes so frustrating and offers strategies and skills for overcoming these difficulties. 

Another Country: Navigating the Emotional Terrain of Our Elders by Mary Pipher

Psychologist and bestselling writer Mary Pipher maps out strategies that help bridge the gaps that separate us from our elders.

Talk Early, Talk Often (more information about the TEMPO method and a video on the subject)

For great information on persuasion and the psychology behind it, listen to the You Are Not So Smart podcast (especially the episodes on The Backfire Effect).

We've written several articles on this topic and related eldercare concerns. Sign up for the latest tips delivered right to your inbox!

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