How to have the conversation. And no, I'm not talking about the S word.
Over that past year you have noticed some things about your parent’s home. There are more cobwebs than there would have been in the past and the nooks and crannies are filing up with dust bunnies. Your mom wears the same three outfits all week. When you mention it “Mom, I like that outfit. I thought I saw you wear that on Monday as well.” The reply you get is “Oh yes I don’t do much these days, I don’t get dirty so no need to create laundry.” Your dad doesn’t try to hide the fact that laundry is a chore to be avoided. He wears the same shirt and sweat pants all week and changes on Sunday for church in the same outfit he wore last Sunday then comes home and changes into his comfy clothes for the week.
Then there is the shower which must not be getting used because dust is starting to form and one of the showers has been converted into a second closet. You go to the fridge and realize there is not much in it and what is in there is getting a bit fuzzy.
What do you do? At first you try the tactful approach and on Sundays you volunteer to bring over lunch. After lunch you volunteer to clean up the kitchen. Then you can’t help yourself and you begin to clean up as much of the house as you can. Your visits have turned from well-intended “care” to full blown house cleaning take over. Your mom is upset that you feel you need to clean the house and doesn’t say anything but you can feel the daggers from her eyes as you try to get that cob web from that far corner in the living room. They want you to be their kid again and so do you, but who is going to help them and how do you have this conversation.
Unfortunately, there is not sure-fire way to have this conversation, but here are a few approaches.
· Start early. Talk to them before they need help. “Mom, Dad, 70% of people over the age of 65 will need long term care at some point. What is your vision for aging? Does a retirement community interest you? Do you need more information before you decide? Let’s talk to some home care agencies and tour some retirement communities so we know what might be a good fit when the time comes and are not forced into make a quick decision. If you never use the information we gather great! At least we will be prepared and maybe you can share what you learned with your friends if they need care down the road.”
· Maybe you tried to have the conversation early but it failed or maybe you never got around to it and now it’s time. One approach might be to ask them questions. “How are things at home? What daily tasks you are not eager to complete or are apprehensive to do for some reason?” If they answer these questions great! Maybe you discover it hurts mom’s hip to vacuum and dad is afraid to falling when showering.
· Maybe these questions did not spur any good conversation and you must dig deeper. It’s time to start mentioning in the kindest way possible what you are noticing. They may immediately think you are suggesting a nursing home. Reassure them you are not and mention you recently learned about home care and that home care can help with housekeeping as well as personal cares. Let them know you can coordinate a visit with a home care agency and free of charge they will come to the home to talk about their services and pricing.
· Let’s say the need is now urgent, no plans have been arranged, and a decision must be made. Try not to get emotional or defensive- even if your parents do. Lay out the facts. Here are some statistics for you to use.
o According to a government study 70% of people age 65 will need some sort of long term care services for an average of 3 years.
o 87% of adults age 65+ want to stay in their current home and community as they age (Source: Aging in Place).
o The cost of a nursing home is around $250 a day and $91,250 a year. The cost of home care is billed hourly with an annual median rate of $44,616 (Source: Genworth 2015 Cost of Care Survey).
Stand firm and let them know you are not taking no for an answer. If they want to remain in their home, help needs to be acquired. Reassure them that you want the best for them, you want them to be safe and you want them to be well cared for.
Having these conversations are tough. Make sure you put yourself in your parent’s shoes. It is not easy hearing from your child that you need extra help. I am sure your parents have made suggestions on how you might improve your life. What did you appreciate from those conversations and what did you not take well? What are your parent’s personalities like? Do they like you being blunt with them and laying out the facts or do you need to ease your way into the conversation?
If you feel home care is the right fit for your parents most home care agencies will conduct a consultation free of charge in the home. This usually takes an hour or less and is an opportunity for you and your parents to get to know the agency and find out what assistance they can provide. It never hurts to have “the” conversation and gather some facts.
At Kore Cares we love to get to know people and would be happy to have a free consultation with you. Call us at 605-275-2344.