Starting a conversation with a senior parent about home health care
Before approaching a senior parent to discuss bringing in a home health care worker, put yourself in that senior’s shoes. Think about what that senior is most frustrated about and be empathetic. Understanding the situation is extremely important in relating to the senior’s emotions, and timing is crucial in setting the stage. Choose a time when tensions are low and there is plenty of time for a discussion.
To make the conversation the most productive, focus on the senior’s safety and helping them maintain independence. Concentrate on why and how an in-home health care worker can actually make life easier and safer.
Jake Harwood, Ph.D., the former director of the University of Arizona’s Graduate Program in Gerontology and the author of Understanding Communication and Aging (2007, Sage Publications), offers tips to help family caregivers communicate with their aging parents on sensitive subjects.
- Get started. Start observing the senior loved one and gather information carefully and thoughtfully. Don’t reach a conclusion from a single observation and decide unilaterally on the best solution. Base the conversation on multiple observations that are gathered with an open mind.
- Talk it out. Approach the senior parent with a conversation. Discuss your observations and ask the senior for their opinion about what is going on. If the senior parent acknowledges the situation, ask for their opinion about what would be good solutions. If the senior parent doesn’t recognize a problem, use concrete examples to support the case.
- Sooner is better. Talk sooner rather than later when a crisis has occurred. If the senior has poor eyesight or has trouble driving at night, begin to address those issues before a problem arises.
- Maximize independence. Always try to move toward solutions that provide the maximum amount of independence for the older person. Look for answers that optimize strengths and compensate for problems. For instance, if your loved one needs assistance at home, look for tools that can help them maintain their strengths.
Recognize the senior’s right to make their own life choices, especially if a home care worker is coming to the house. The senior is likely to be more agreeable if their concerns or wishes are respected during the decision-making process. The sooner you begin conversations with an aging parent about how they can remain safe and maintain independence by using home care, the easier it will be to approach the topic over the long-term, before any major safety concerns are presented.