The holidays are a time for families to reunite and celebrate together, so it’s understandable that many people don’t see this as a time for talking about senior home care with their parents. However, this is a golden opportunity to truly see how Mom and Dad are getting along in daily life and what their needs are rather than waiting for a crisis.
In a Blink: Caregiving
Robert P. learned this lesson the hard way. His father had Alzheimer’s disease and was blind when his mother slipped and fell in a parking lot. She dislocated her shoulder, broke her kneecap and broke her arm. Robert and his two brothers needed to care for their parents for at least the next six weeks. This became a “What now?” conversation, instead of a “What if?” scenario.
The reason people like Robert stall on having this conversation with their parents is because it is often received and perceived as a threat to independence. It doesn’t have to be that way. There are many options that maintain independence – like in-home care. But making the decision requires a family discussion. If you and your loved ones talk about in-home care in the right way, then it builds bridges for all of you to get to the future.
It’s more stressful on everyone if the family waits until there is an emergency, like a fall or a sudden illness, to talk about a plan for the future. When a need for home care shows up in a rush, emotions run high and people feel defensive.
To avoid any tug-of-war or confrontational conversations, it’s a good idea to prepare a script ahead of time. You shouldn’t actually use it, but it helps to organize your thoughts. The script or letter lets you pinpoint your precise concerns and target subjects you may feel too awkward or anxious to initially say out loud. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can talk with a doctor or a friend who already has experience with this type of situation and they can even be there with you when you have the conversation with your parents.
Robert and his two brothers found out that taking time off from work in two-week shifts was very stressful. During his two weeks in Nashville, there was never a time where he wasn’t caring for his parents. He’d get up early to help his father and then would have to help his mother get dressed and cleaned up.
Unfortunately, Robert’s mother’s health deteriorated and the juggling act got a lot harder as Robert became his father’s full-time caregiver while his brothers took turns going to the hospital to check on their mother.
This is where it helps to have one person in charge. That could be a family member or a professionally-trained caregiver with a customized care plan. The plan makes sure the care you’re your loved one is getting matches with what their doctor wants. This is especially helpful if you cannot always be there. When there are questions – those involved, like a home health care agency, can just refer to the plan. It also makes your loved ones feel comfortable that everyone is working together to make sure their care is in good hands. The process gives not only medical professionals, but family members a way to communicate and delegate responsibilities.
When Robert’s mother passed away, one of his brothers wanted to completely take over caring for their father.
“My brother said, ‘I’m going to take care of dad in my home,’ and I said, ‘Don’t you dare because I love your wife too much.’ It’s one thing to care for your own family, but it’s another thing when it’s your in-law. The idea of my sister-in-law having to deal with my dad all the time was probably not a good idea,” he said.
They had another conversation as a family and decided to their father needed full-time professional help. It’s important to think of these conversations with and about your loved ones as a beginning – not an end. This is the start of a new chapter and it often brings everyone closer together. Care is a commitment and it’s not to be taken lightly, but if you approach it with forward thinking instead of dread then it can also be gratifying for all involved.