Home care planning

How to start discussing care needs with your elderly parents
Talking about Home Care

Starting the discussion around the need for care can be very difficult and lead to family disagreements both with other family members and the person requiring care.

Talking about Home Care

When to start the conversation?

The earlier you start talking about the situation and options available, the longer your loved one will have to come to terms with the idea. Expect nothing from your first discussion, it may need to be a gradual process, rather than a one-time discussion.

  • Are everyday tasks are becoming more difficult?
  • Are you worried about your loved ones safety in the home.
  • You may even be getting ready to bring a loved one home from hospital and want to feel reassured they will be safe and well looked after at home.
  • If your loved one gets a new diagnosis, it’s a great time to review what might be needed. They may realise it’s time to make some changes after a recent fall. Don’t let these “windows of opportunity” pass. See our article ‘How to make your home safer’

Think about what other family members may say to your suggestions. If they live further away they may not realise what’s happening day to day and not be ready to accept things are changing. Or if they the primary caregiver they maybe upset by your observations?

Do your research

Prepare thoroughly before you have that family conversation.

Look into care options that are available to you so you can understand the differences between care homes and care at home. See our article ‘Care home vs Home care-what is the difference?’ Do a practice run considering how other family conversations have gone previously.

Financial implications – understand each option and the positive impact of each for your loved one.

Talk with friends or colleagues. Usually you will find someone who has recently been through a similar experience.

How do I start a care conversation?

  • Allow enough time for a proper conversation. Don’t rush it or drop it in at the end of a visit or phone call. Bear in mind its always better to do it in person.
  • Your attitude and tone are important. When having this conversation with elderly parents ensure you treat them like the adults. Even when they are losing their memory to dementia, or are struggling with physical pain and disability, they have needs and desires, as well as a right to have a say in how their lives are run.
  • Explain your concerns slowly and clearly.
  • Ensure the time and place are right. A significant family event may not be the right time.
    • Ensure it’s a two way conversation where your loved one feels involved and their opinion respected.
    • Allow them time to think, both during the conversation and afterwards.
    • Steer them towards making the decision themselves. They need to see the benefits without feeling pressured.
      • Don’t make every phone call or visit about care, but do bring it up regularly.
      • Avoid talking about care support when your loved one is worrying about something else.

      Always involve the person needing care if possible

      Above all else listen, to understand their concerns and what lies deeper behind the surfacing objections. It could be pride, vulnerability, security or something else at the heart of it. Your loved ones may be confused, scared and feeling overwhelmed.

      They will need reassurance that you will be there to help them. Knowing the root of what you are dealing with will help and enable you to further research or to put forward clear positives.

      Avoid information overload. Sharing information about care options can be helpful, but can be overwhelming. This may lead to them becoming defensive.

      Put yourself in your loved ones shoes. How would you feel and think if you were them? 

      Be positive

      Talk about how important they are to you and how much you want to support them.

      • Keeping your independence. Accepting care, especially if it is care at home, can enhance your life enabling you to keep up with hobbies and preserving your independence. Having support with everyday tasks can make your day much more manageable.
      • An extra pair of hands may help you do the things you really want or just their everyday tasks. Some elderly people are intimidated by the prospect of somebody coming in to “look after” them, but are quite keen on the idea of help with some housekeeping
      • Having company on a regular basis with a welcoming companion. For several people, engaging in conversations with a younger carer can serve as a refreshing experience and really brighten their day reducing loneliness. Find out more here about Companionship care.

      Discuss exactly what a carer may help with. Do be specific so they can understand where a carer may add value and support.

      Listen to understand, not to respond. Be sure to give your full attention and listen to other’s point of view.

      Keep an open mind. The conversation may not go to plan but be open to other suggestions. Your loved one and the family may need some time to think and process what you have said.

      Are your parents in denial that they need help?

      Are your parents or a vulnerable adult in denial that they need help? Maybe your siblings are in denial as well and can hinder getting your parent help. If this is the case, then you need to have examples of your parent’s declining health or compromised safety.

      • Has your parent fallen or been hospitalised recently?
      • Have they recently lost weight and don’t look healthy?
      • Are they withdrawn and missing family events?

      Denial is quite common among families. But to truly help your parent, everyone needs to understand why there is a concern.

      Keep communication open and nonjudgmental and try to stick to the facts of your parent’s behaviour that are causing concern. One issue may be that you don’t speak often enough as a family, and incidents with your parent are quickly forgotten or brushed off.

      Ask about their reasons by asking a series of questions. Understanding their objections and anxieties can enable you to offer reassurance or address their concerns effectively.

      Explain to them that their condition is deteriorating, and that it is becoming dangerous for them to have no support. They may want to talk to their GP or practice nurse about their situation,  often hearing the same thing from several people who all have your best interests at heart can be more convincing and reassuring.

      Finish on a positive note. If everyone doesn’t agree that’s ok. Focus on the areas you agree on and acknowledge the points you hadn’t considered before.