When an elderly parent needs assistance, it will probably be obvious to everyone in the family except the parent. Independent people generally cling to their desire to remain self-sufficient, often long past the time when they are no longer able to truly care for themselves. When it is time to have that challenging conversation with Mom or Dad, keep in mind the following tips:
- An elderly person with dementia can revert, mentally, to a child-like state. Use that to encourage Mom or Dad to want to be like their friends. Approach them with the idea that many of their friends have help at home. The "help" may be in the form of someone who takes care of their household chores or may be a caregiver. The idea is that if "all their friends are doing it," they may be more accepting of the idea.
- Reassure them that they can still do all the things they are actually still able to do. The objection might be, for example, that Mom doesn't want someone to come in and bathe her. If Mom can still bathe herself safely, let her know that the in-home caregiver will continue to let her do that on her own.
- Approach the idea as a safety concern. Mom may have fallen a lot lately or may have experienced some dangerous episodes of mixing up pills or leaving the stove on. Let her know that the caregiver will help her with these chores, to keep her from having to worry about doing any of it. Tell her that the family would be reassured knowing they won't have to worry about Mom's safety all of the time.
- Be patient and calm. A person with dementia has a difficult time with reasoning. The facts may be clear, but the objection can remain. If Mom or Dad has always been self-reliant, they may reject help even when the concerns and the safety issues are pointed out. They may see an in-home caregiver as a sign of weakness on their part, that they can no longer do anything for themselves. Continue to reassure them that they will still be able to do the things they are able to do safely.
- Do not give up. It can become frustrating to have the same discussion over and over again, but it is one of the most important discussions to have with aging parents who can no longer safely live by themselves. Continue to gather "evidence" of unsafe acts and remain steadfast that Mom or Dad needs help to continue their quality of life as long as possible.
In-home care can help elderly parents with many tasks they can no longer do by themselves or can no longer do safely. The conversation may be challenging and filled with objections, but with patience and persistence, the family can be reassured that Mom and Dad will stay safe in their own home.
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