Christmas brings families together. If you are not living near your parents, it’s likely that you’ll see changes in them. They may look thinner or seem forgetful. Siblings may whisper, “don’t you think mum’s looking frail?”
You may think your parents need home care. In your opinion, their lives would be socially richer. They would be healthier and safer.
But stop for a minute. I’d advise to wait until Christmas is well and truly over.
This is a difficult conversation that many adult children will have with aging parents and it’s better left for a less emotionally loaded time of year.
When the time comes, here are some general guidelines to help all parties discuss the idea of home care for mum and dad.
- Rather than stressing what you want and jumping into fix-it mode, ask your parents what they want. Listen to their wishes and fears and go from there.
- Stay positive. Praise your parents for the way they have managed their retirement years.
- Know that talking about change is hard. Your parents may think that accepting help means they have failed. Help them to reframe this. Home care is a safety net that allows them to maintain control and independence for longer.
- We all take risks and your parents have the right to take risks as they age. Knowing the risks and ramifications is the key.
- Help them state their vision clearly. For example, it could be to live independently and safely at home and continue to enjoy time with friends, family and neighbours.
From there they can look at the specifics: For instance, “does climbing up the ladder to put up the Christmas lights, help me to meet this vision?” Some actions will put that vision at risk and can be dropped without an argument.
- It can be helpful to tell a story. You may have friends whose parents can speak positively about home care.
- Use the research. Macquarie University researchers found that for each hour of care a person received, they were 6 per cent less likely to be moved into residential care. So, if your mum or dad accepts just five hours of help a week, their chance of staying at home improves by 30 per cent.
- Start small. Ask your parents about one task they would be prepared for someone else to do on a trial basis. This way they can test out services without pressure. For instance, they may try home-delivered groceries for a month.
- Choose your time to talk. It may be more effective to say things as the jobs appear, such as when you see dad sweeping up leaves and puffing and huffing.
- Be respectful of your parents’ wishes and be prepared to have the same conversations again over time. By sowing the seeds, they can think about ideas, collect information from peers or their doctor and stay in control.
- A new diagnosis or a trip to hospital can be an opportunity to reassess your parents’ needs with them and help them plan for the future. Health professionals may have valuable information to contribute at this stage.
Remember change happens slowly. Do not turn all your conversations into care conversations. Let go of the small things and enjoy your time with mum and dad. It’s precious.
Kendall Morton is Director of Home Care Assistance Sunshine Coast to Wide Bay. Call 5491 6888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org