If there’s one thing that remains constant throughout life, it is change. We may not recognize changes as they’re happening, but when we look back on memories and past experiences, the differences from then to now can be staggering. This fact of life is particularly obvious for seniors, who with age, may notice changes in their ability to care for themselves, get around independently, or express themselves easily.

Many seniors wish to remain in their homes as they grow older and, often, outside assistance can make this possible. However, the topic of home care can be difficult for family members, especially adult children, to bring up with aging loved ones. Loss of independence is frequently associated with feelings of shame and fear. Senior loved ones may be too proud to admit they need help and family members don’t want to cause unnecessary confrontation or embarrassment.

If you’re unsure whether it is time to approach the subject of home care with your aging parent, think back to the last time you saw them. Did their appearance, such as personal hygiene or weight, seem unusual? Perhaps they had trouble remembering the names of friends and relatives, were unable to cook for themselves, or forgot to take their medications. Signs like these often indicate that it is time to discuss senior care options.

3 Tips for Difficult Conversations About Care

  1. Take it one step at a time
    Be cautious not to overwhelm your parent with accusations. Start the conversation by reminding them how much you love them and value their well-being. State one concern at a time, such as: “I’ve noticed you seem tired. Are you sleeping okay?” They may admit to poor sleeping habits, nighttime wandering, or negative side effects of medication. This will help you identify the true cause of their changes and present a solution.
  2. Communication is Key
    Speak clearly and remain respectful and loving. Conversations about care can easily become emotional. Remember that your concern for your parent comes from a place of love. Keep this in mind when choosing how you express yourself. Perhaps the most important part of communication is listening. Give your parent plenty of time to adequately explain their feelings. Throughout their life, they have developed a whole set of preferences, likes and dislikes, attitudes, and beliefs. Listen to how they feel about their health, living situation, and plans for the future. Acknowledging their wants and concerns will help you find the best care solution together.
  3. Plan for the Next Steps
    If your concerns are justified, you may want to plan on presenting care options to your loved one. This will likely occur during a later conversation when your parent is ready to accept some extra assistance. Be prepared with home care options that will best suit their needs. Talk with your loved one’s physician or seek a referral to a senior care manager. Senior care professionals are great resources for families who need a little guidance through the changes they are facing. Approaching your senior parent or other aging relatives about home care can be stressful. It is important to have these conversations early and often, ensuring that your loved one is involved in the decision-making process. While it may be uncomfortable at first, you may find that everyone involved is happier in the long-run that the tough decisions were made before a crisis occurred.