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How to have “the home care talk” with your parents

In your eyes, your parents, or any older loved one you may have in your life, will be forever young and the best place to go for advice.

Key points:

  • It’s better to start the conversation about needing home care earlier rather than later

  • Home care doesn’t have to be forever, trial it with your parents first to see if they find benefit from it

  • Don’t force your parents into accepting a form of home care, validate their feelings and concerns, and table the discussion for another day

Older woman and daughter having a serious discussion.
In home care doesn't have to be intense forms of care, it could be as small as someone helping with the garden. [Source: Shutterstock]

They have years of experience and wisdom, know a thing or two about house handiwork, and can be your biggest cheerleaders in life.

However, you may start to notice your ageing loved one is not coping as well as they used to with everyday tasks.

Their gardens may be unruly, their laundry basket might be overflowing, or your parents seem to be out of step with their normal routine.

The problem is, your parents have been fiercely independent for all of their life. So how do you suggest to your parents that they may need a little bit of extra help around the home?

Signs your parents need more help

Any small habits that your parents may not be doing in their usual everyday routine can be considered a sign that a little extra help around the home could be beneficial.

If your parents are avoiding their chores or social events, it can be an indicator that they are struggling with basic tasks and some extra help at home might be the next step.

It’s better to start having the conversation about in home care early, as you notice these little signs, before it escalates to more extensive aged care services after a fall or accident.

Another big sign could be yourself! 

If your parents are asking you for more and more support throughout the week, big or small, this could show that they may require assistance.

Clinical Psychologist from Sydney, Jo Lamble, recently worked with home care provider, myHomecare, creating a toolkit to guide people in asking their parents or older loved ones if they need home care. 

“My main interest has always been on relationships, mainly couples, but also parents and their children, and definitely working on having difficult conversations. It is so important all the time, and this is a really common one,” says Ms Lamble.

“When we have difficult conversations to be had, we tend to avoid it. If you have a pretty good suggested script, it can help.

“Talking to your loved ones about the options available to help them stay at home and remain independent is crucial.”

How to start the conversation

Ms Lamble says it is important to always validate and emphasise with what your parents are saying or how they might be feeling about the suggestion of needing home care. 

It is important that you understand where your parents are coming from. The thought of losing their independence can be a scary prospect. Even more so if there is a random person coming into their home.

Never assume what your parents want to do and ask questions like, ‘I’m guessing that you’d like to stay living here, but I’d really love to know what your thoughts are.’

Don’t try to anticipate how your parent or loved one is feeling about receiving home care.

Make sure you explain to your parents that having extra help around the house will actually help them not only maintain their independence but also keep them in their home for longer.

Ms Lamble suggests providing examples of how home care could benefit their lives at home.

The support they could receive includes help with driving to the shops or appointments, laundry or personal care, maintaining the garden, cleaning the house, or preparing meals and doing the dishes. 

Make sure to repeat that this home care help is about them and how it could assist your parents, don’t try to make it about yourself.

“It is often good to bring up someone else. Their neighbour has someone mowing their lawn. ‘Do they find that helpful? Do you think that would help?’ You need to normalise it,” says Ms Lamble.

Using experiences from people they know can make the idea a lot more appealing. If they know their good friend Maeve Smith from next door is using in home care services, it can make them feel more at ease with implementing it in their own home.

If there is fear towards a stranger in their home, explain that you may be able to organise a catch up beforehand with the potential care staff so they know who will be visiting. And if you live in a regional or remote area, the likelihood of knowing the care staff is a lot higher.

However, if there is still fear, make sure to let your parents know it doesn’t have to be forever. Instead, they could have a trial of in home care help to see if it benefits their day to day lives.

There are a lot of misconceptions around how home care and aged care services work, which could be encouraging this fear, so be prepared to dispel any false information.

Do your research on what may be available to your parents for basic support and be prepared for answering any misconceptions they may have.

Why your parents might be resistive to home care

A large majority of older people want to remain independent and continue living at home. That is a perfectly valid wish. Your home is your safe place and full of personal memories.

Even the Federal Government has a focus on providing assistance to older people to stay at home for longer through the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) and Home Care Packages program.

However, Ms Lamble says for many older people, any form of help can “really feel like a loss of independence… that people will take away their control, and control their life.

“For many older people, these conversations are often interpreted as a judgment on their ability to remain independent. 

“A very common one is their driving license. That is another difficult conversation. The fear there, they might not want to drive, but they want to have the choice. ‘Don’t tell me I can’t drive!’”

Ms Lamble suggests to always validate and empathise with how your parents are feeling.

What happens if they are refusing support?

Always express that you love your parents and understand if they don’t want to talk about it. Suggest talking about it later at another time.

“Keep stressing that you are not imposing your will on them, you want to know what they want. If they don’t want anything right now, that is fine,” says Ms Lamble.

Ms Lamble says suggest to your parents to think about how a little help around the house could help and mention that you will bring this conversation up later.

But never push home care or other aged care services on to your parents, it will only result in more resistance to help around the home.

If your parents don’t want any help now, ask them to have a think about anything useful that they might require in the future.

To read the toolkit for starting a difficult conversation, click here

Do you think these tips will help start the difficult conversation with your parents? Let us know in the comments below.

Related content:

How to maintain and improve mobility and reduce falls
Transition Care 
Respite Care 

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