According to the Pew Research Center, about 52 percent of those with parents ages 65 to 74, and 64 percent with parents 75 and older lend a hand because their parents need help. But what are the signs parents need more assistance than you can provide?
You might think you’ve already tackled the trickiest conversation ever with a family member—the one about birds and bees with your preteens. But there’s another talk that no one feels prepared to have.
With your parents well into retirement years, the awkward conversation today is about whether, when, and how you, your siblings, and a home care agency should take on some or all of their care.
If not handled delicately, the conversation can turn into an emotional tug of war. You could wind up on one side, battling to protect your parents’ health and safety. Your parents could brace themselves on the opposite end of the rope, fighting to preserve their independence. Clearly, the emotional stakes are high, as are the chances for misunderstandings and bruised feelings. It’s no wonder many put off this conversation for as long as possible.
If you’ve noted your parents’ difficulties with daily life routines, rest assured that the conversation will go more smoothly if it happens before a crisis forces everyone to make decisions on the fly.
Timing is everything.
Gerontologist Alexis Abramson, author of The Caregiver’s Survival Handbook: How to Care for Your Aging Parent Without Losing Yourself, says a good time to gather facts and understand your healthy parents aging wishes is at age 65.
Even if you do wait for a medical diagnosis to begin thinking about your parents’ home care needs, take action early. The conversation should happen when any chronic disease is identified so you can start planning on needs. If a loved one has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s but is still reasonably functional, start the conversation then.
It’s usually best to make the conversation at least a two-stage process, with the first stage a break-the-ice dialogue to get the lines of communication going between you and your parents. To improve communication and better understand your parents’ point of view, keep in mind:
A parent may be in denial and refuse to admit they need help. This will create additional challenges.
After you’ve broken the ice, you can arrange for a separate nuts-and-bolts conversation—a family meeting with your older loved one included—to discuss specifics. To avoid resentment, include all the people who care about your parents in discussions about their care.
Delehanty and Ginzler offer the following tips for family meetings:
As you join your loved ones and family to plan for medical, financial, and daily living needs that lie ahead, you’ve taken an important step. One day your loved one’s needs will change, and you won’t be forced to guess his or her wishes regarding medical care or financial matters. Even better, you’ve drawn your family together so you can support each other through life’s changes.
Once you’ve located the necessary papers, it’s time to discuss how to divvy up the caregiving responsibilities.
“You need to talk to your family members about what kind of role they want to play,” Abramson says. “And treat caregiving like it’s a business. There should be someone who’s the CEO, who delegates responsibilities, but in a way that will motivate. For example, just because your brother’s an accountant doesn’t mean he wants to handle your parents’ finances.”
If you and your family can’t meet all of your loved ones' needs to remain independent and maintain a high quality of life, it’s good to know SYNERGY HomeCare offers a variety of services that can fill the gap.