You love your parents. But the Sunday afternoons you used to spend eating dinner and catching up are now taken up with you or your spouse shoveling the driveway or mowing the lawn.
Instead of your dad calling you to ask about your day, he calls to ask you to pick up some prescriptions.
You’ve taken to checking their refrigerator each time you go over, because they not only have expired food in there, they’re eating it.
The call from the emergency room to your workplace has already occurred once when your mom became dehydrated from the flu. You’re already dreading another call, which you fear could come at any time.
Your amazing parents, who took care of you when you were a child, need more help than you can provide.
Once the realization dawns on you, it’s all you can think about.
“Am I making something out of nothing?” you may ask yourself. Before you go any further, consider the following:
- Assess your parent’s wellbeing. This checklist by AARP may be helpful.
- Research solutions and alternatives. Consider home care and Assisted Living. Compare costs of your various options.
Don’t Wait to Talk to Your Parents
Once you realize your parents are not safe at home, it’s vitally important that you work with your parents and other family members as soon as possible.
Stella Henry, R.N., author of The Eldercare Handbook, says, “95% of my clients come to me in crisis situations.” Older adults, she explains, “unrealistically believe they can take care of themselves for the rest of their lives.”
When the family waits until a crisis—a fall, an injury, a hospitalization or dementia—occurs, the result, she says, is “chaos”.
Henry advocates communicating about the future early to avoid chaos and heartache.
How to Communicate with Your Parents
How do you communicate with your parents so you can work together to determine what needs to be done?
- Set the stage. Plan when and where to have the conversation. Minimize distractions, intrusions and noise. Turn off the TV or radio.
- Make it a one-on-one conversation so your parents don’t feel as if you’re airing dirty laundry.
- Use "I" statements so your parents don't feel as if you're handing down an ultimatum. Use terms like "I feel" and "my feelings".
- Watch your words and approach. Your parents may find your words and attitude offensive.
- Discuss only one thing at a time but don't be blunt. For example, instead of saying, "Mom, I don’t think you can take care of your house any more", try to explain how you came to your conclusion first. "Mom, I've been really concerned because I see all these bruises on you, and there’s moldy food in the refrigerator, and I’m worried about your safety. I feel like it's my fault, because I don't know how to help. Can we discuss how I can help you?”
- Give your mom or dad time to process the information. Many parents will automatically dismiss any change. You must always keep in mind that they still view you primarily as their child.
- If they disagree with your assessment, ask them to support their reasoning. Then deal with their supporting statements, not your parents’ viewpoints. If they say the problem is only temporary, in as gentle a manner as possible, give them a deadline to remedy the situation.
- Know your sensitive points. You may be handling this in as sensitive a manner as possible, but that doesn't mean your parents will. They know if they get you upset, you're unlikely to continue the conversation.
- Practice with your spouse or someone who knows your parents and will have an idea how they’ll respond.
- Don't be upset if the conversation ends without a solution. You're beginning a process, and you may need to share your concerns several times before your parents become more receptive.
The Assisted Living Conversation
At The Arbors Assisted Living Residential Communities, we have experience introducing older adults to the concept of Assisted Living. We’ve also developed some tips for their loved ones to help here.
Many older adults are fearful of change. Their biggest worry, we’ve found, comes from confusing Assisted Living communities with nursing homes. We’re not, and here’s why.
Even if your parents are resistant, please give us a call. We can help you communicate and work with your parents better, because we’ve done so for hundreds of families. We can answer their questions and yours. If you need help, we’re here for you. Contact the community nearest you.