November 1, 2016

Understanding the Best Ways to Help your Aging Parents

Aging parents

It can be difficult to decide on the best ways to help your aging parents. This dilemma faces so many family caregivers every day! Does this readers’ question sound familiar?

“My sisters and I have been taking care of our aging parents who are in their late 80’s.  They live in their home and said they won’t leave until they die. BUT my mother won’t let us hire paid help. What shall we do?”

I have been in your position. My dad didn’t want to hire help either. Even if your parents say they don’t want to be a burden, they would probably always choose you to help them over paid care. Put yourself in their shoes–it probably is a bit daunting to have someone they don’t know doing services for them.

It may help if you can get to the heart of your parents’ concerns. Perhaps you think they don’t see how dirty things are, or maybe you think they are concerned about the cost. One day while scrubbing my own father’s bathroom, he told me, “I’ll pay you forty dollars an hour to do  that.” It dawned on me is wasn’t lack of understanding or concern for money that bothered him. He was just reluctant to have strangers in his personal space.

You and your sisters also need to validate your parent’s feelings by letting them know that you endorse their hope of staying in their home. It may also be necessary to re-assure them that paid help will not substitute for the visits they count on from you.

Your aging parents need to understand that it is impractical to think that you can do it all while taking care of your own responsibilities. You and your sisters should get together and review the tasks you currently do, the ones you no longer wish to do and the ones that are simply not getting done. Sit your parents down and go over this list together.

Suggest a compromise that shifts some of the burden, to start. Perhaps you can get your parents to agree to once-a-week housecleaning and grocery shopping while you and your sisters continue to take them to appointments. Or like my dad, who was willing to accept transportation assistance but needed to ease into the idea of strangers in the house.

Once you are all on the same page, I suggest having a home care company come and meet with you all together to explain their services. If you choose to hire them, one of you should be there the first time or two to help ease the transition and orient the caregiver. Over time, your parents will get used to the help. In fact, parents often grow attached to the caregivers and miss it when they don’t come.

Of course, your aging parents may continue to refuse paid help. You can try playing hard ball. You and your sisters can let your parents know that you will not be coming to help at all. Give it a week or two. Be prepared to let your parents fail without your help. After a week of not helping, see if your parents may agree to use home care.

Brace yourself, though. Chances are they may still refuse. You may visit and find them happily eating cold cereal. You may see clutter mounting and kitchen cleanliness decline. They may see that as okay. You likely will not. Remind them that the goal is for their long-term comfort and safety, and that their willingness to bend here may not only make you feel better, it may keep them out of nursing care in the long run. To ensure long-term success, a better balance is needed for all of you.

Best of luck!  For more information on this topic, click here for more ideas on elder care.

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