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Helping Dad Say Yes To Home Care

That’s it!  That’s the look I know you’ve seen!

You have just finished talking with your father about hiring help with daily activities and this is the expression on his face.  He is not happy.  He does not want someone in his home.

And if you don’t believe anything else I say, you can be damn sure about this: Your aging parent does NOT want to spend money on assistance that he/she thinks is unnecessary!

So how do you get him to yes?

Carefully.  And with the utmost respect for how he feels in this situation.

This part gets glossed over all the time, but it’s critically important — so important, in fact, that I believe your success in convincing your aging parent to accept home care will depend upon your ability to put yourself in his/her shoes. Why?  Well because…

Having someone point out your shortcomings doesn’t exactly bring out the warm fuzzies

The contestants on American Idol don’t like it much and neither do the people on TLC’s Hoarders.  Think I only have t.v. examples? Okay. And just how warm and fuzzy do you feel toward the last person who suggested that you may have put on a few pounds?!

Good. Glad we’re on the same page again! 😉

Hearing the truth (even when we know it’s the truth!) can bring on a mix of emotions.  Sometimes anger is first. Maybe a little resentment too.  If you sense either of these feelings when talking with your parent about home care, consider that what they may really be masking is hurt.  That’s because…

Everyone wants to feel competent and useful

Even more so than the cost of home care, I’ve found that many older adults are resistant to the concept of home care. Retiring, having grown children who no longer need raising – these things represent the loss of some significant roles and can make a person begin to feel inept.

But do you want to know what really seals the deal on feeling old?  Having a child suggest that you can’t manage the day-to-day chores that you’ve been doing since well before they were born.

And the irony of all ironies here is that some of these chores were probably assigned to your parents by their parents…to help foster a sense of INDEPENDENCE!

So if you’re aging parent doesn’t immediately warm to the idea of home care, understand that it’s normal. What you’re really asking is that he/she accept another of life’s transitions and that may take some time.  Below are some tips for getting the conversation off on the right foot:

1) Look for low hanging fruit

In other words, lead with something you can both agree needs improvement and go from there.  Has your aging parent expressed a willingness to accept help with anything?  Think carefully about this.  Better yet, open your ears WIDE during that next visit.

Oh, so he hates microwavable food which is about all he’s eaten in the last several years?  Great! Well, not great in general, but great in this instance! There’s your opening…

“Pop, what kind of food do you wish were waiting for you in the fridge?”

Listen, listen. Then later, “What if I could find someone to cook those things for you every once in a while – would you like that?”

Want to know what the most important words were in this example?  ONCE IN A WHILE.

This brings me to #2…

2) Be content with small change

Progress is progress.  If your aging parent only wants help once a week to begin with, then once a week it is.  Resist the urge to push your parent because you won’t win.  And for corn’s sake – don’t let the home care agency push you!  If they say they can only send someone if it’s for several days a week, then thank them very much and find another agency.  Again, this is a process and it takes time.  If they’re any good, they won’t try to strong arm you.

So you’ve just learned that Susie who cooks a few meals for your dad on Sundays is also available on Wednesdays t00?  Fantastic!  Once he gets used to Susie and likes her, he probably won’t mind if she moved in!  Okay so that’s a slight exaggeration, but you get my point!

What other kind of help would your father be open to on Wednesdays? Maybe laundry or help with running errands? If you don’t know, ask him! You might be surprised by the response.

3) Hold out for the right person

Having someone in your parent’s home will take some adjusting.  It helps a lot if this person is not a pain in the – well, you know.  Encourage your parent to give it a go for a week or two and if it doesn’t work, move along to someone else.  In other words, take the long view here; it’s not about finding someone perfect right now, it’s about finding someone that you’re father will be comfortable with over time.


Do you have tips to share for helping an aging parent to accept home care? If so, I’d love to hear them! I hope you’ll share them in the comments below.

And since you’re looking for articles about home care, I’m thinking that you might be in the Planning Care stage of caregiving.  Head on over to that page for more articles and more tips!

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Maria March 5, 2011, 1:53 PM

    That’s an excellent point, Monique. In this way a home attendant could function more like a companion which may be an idea that’s easier to warm to for some older adults. I would just encourage you to check with the home care agency to see if they allow their staff to drive if the plan is to have dinner out.

  • monique March 5, 2011, 1:27 PM

    Maybe we can get mom & dad to have someone one day per week or evenings for dinner out…

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