- Observe and research. Perhaps you notice that mom has recently had trouble climbing the stairs or that dad has vision problems that have resulted in unsafe driving practices (e.g. drifting into other lanes, not obeying road signs). In any case, it is important to observe where limitations might be so that you can accurately discuss your concerns with your parents and find the best solutions.
- Evaluate receptiveness and show you are a resource. Probe lightly during a visit or over the phone (e.g. “When was your last doctor’s appointment? What did he/she say?”; “Did you drive to the mall today? How’s the car?”). If your parent is receptive to your questions, ask how you can be helpful. You want to be respectful and establish yourself as a resource; avoid phrases like, “That’s not good. We’ll have to do X.” or “It’s definitely time to bring in a caregiver or move you to a facility.”
- Set the tone. Let conversation flow naturally. Ideally, your parent will bring up the topic of assistance, but in most cases you’ll have to start the dialogue. You can do so directly (e.g. “It was scary when you almost tripped on the steps this morning. Is that happening often?”) or indirectly (e.g. “Lisa’s parents just hired a caregiver to come in three times a week—her mom is thrilled to have help with housekeeping and cooking and now can spend more time gardening and playing with the grandchildren.”). You want to communicate your concerns, but avoid taking a critical approach as it will likely end the dialogue.
- Be receptive. Do your parents prefer to age at home? What are your parents’ concerns about aging? What is most important to them? Practice empathetic listening to show you support their opinions. If your parent is not open to discussion around additional assistance, try to get to the root of the resistance (e.g. cost, invasion of privacy, loss of independence, fear of theft) and ease his or her concerns (e.g. “There are many agencies that conduct thorough background checks on caregivers so we can be sure they are trustworthy.”; “Caregivers will not take away your independence by doing everything for you, but instead will only offer help when needed.”).
- Consider bringing in a third party. If your loved one is totally resistant to the options you have put forth, sometimes it can be helpful to bring in a neutral third party. If your parent has always sought counsel from a priest or rabbi, for example, consider asking if that person could address concerns and suggest options. You might even consider asking a Home Care Assistance care manager to facilitate your family meeting – we can help ensure that everyone effectively communicates their feelings about placing a caregiver in the home while addressing questions that arise. We’re happy to help in any way we can – without any obligation.
- Follow up. Maybe you’re only able to introduce the possibility of home care and your parent needs time to think about it. Respect your loved one's choice and give him or her time to digest all of the information you talked about—you want the final decision to be collaborative.
If you have decided that home care is the best option for your aging loved one, we have developed an Agency Evaluation Checklist that will help you ask the right questions to find the care provider in Austin that is best suited for your mom or dad’s needs. The Checklist covers everything from the experience and training of the caregivers to the responsiveness of the care managers. Make sure you have this checklist in hand as you evaluate different home care companies in Austin.
Please contact us if you have any further questions pertaining to this topic. We are always happy to be a resource for families, their loved ones and the greater community.