It’s difficult when the roles reverse. Your parents took care of you your entire life, but now it’s your turn to take care of them. The difference is that you’re their child and they struggle with the role reversal, too. Seniors want to remain independent, so they sometimes refuse your assistance. Ever heard any of these statements?
- “I’ve managed this long without your help!”
- “I taught you how to do laundry.”
- “I’ve got a valid driver’s license. I’m perfectly capable of driving myself.”
- “You can’t tell me what I should or shouldn’t do; I’m an adult.”
What they’re really saying is:
- “I want to do what I’ve always been able to do.”
- “I’m still your mom/dad.”
- “I value my independence.”
- “I’m scared.”
There will come a time (if it hasn’t already happened) when you will need to bring some senior caregivers into the mix. But before that happens, you have to tell your parents. Here are some ways to start that conversation:
Instead of accusing (their interpretation) your parent of growing frail, share your observations in a matter of fact way.
- I’ve noticed you don’t have many groceries in the refrigerator lately.
- I’ve noticed you got a couple of past dues notices in the mail.
- I’ve noticed you don’t seem to be bathing as often.
- I’ve noticed you’re struggling to open your medication bottles.
- I’ve noticed you have a difficult time sitting down and standing up.
The goal here is to discuss observable facts that are difficult for your parents to refute. This leads to an opportunity for you to offer some help.
Could you use some help with…?
On average, most people would relish the idea of somebody cooking and cleaning for them on a regular basis. Mention the luxury of the idea without being deceptive.
- Could you use some help with getting into and out of the bathtub?
- Could you use some help with the housekeeping?
- Could you use some help with meal preparation?
- Could you use some help running errands?
- Could you use some help getting to and from your doctor’s appointments?
I can’t always be here with you.
In general, parents don’t want to burden their children. Once your parent acknowledges needing a little help, be completely honest with them. “I want to help you as much as I can, but I can’t always be here with you. The kids need me, and I have to work.” Next, tell them that you’ve found somebody who can help them while you’re gone. This is the introduction to the idea of in home care.
Listen to your parents’ concerns—not just to what they say, but what they mean. Seniors feel vulnerable allowing a stranger into their home. Perhaps you could offer to stay with them the first couple of times the caregiver is there so your parents can get to know them. (Note: if you do that, make sure to let the caregiver do the helping instead of you.)