Losing the ability to be independent can be a difficult transition for older parents. You might notice the household chores getting neglected, a slip in hygiene, or a reluctance to do the things they once loved. All the signs may be clear to you, your parents say they're fine—and if they need help, they'll ask for it.
Getting your parents the help they need can be a delicate situation. Your parents have been taking care of themselves (and you when you were growing up) for decades, they may not be prepared to accept the scary inevitability of needing someone else to help them. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help make the transition easier.
1. Ask them why they don't want help and listen to the answers.
Your parents probably have specific reasons for why they don't want help. They can do it themselves. They don't want a stranger coming into their house. They don't want to spend the money.
These are all valid reasons to them, but the reason may be deeper than that. They may fear losing their independence, or that admitting to needing help is admitting frailty they aren't quite ready for.
It's important not to simply move into fix-it mode the second you think you know why they don't want help. Listen, ask questions, and think about what they've said.
2. Face your own fears.
Why do you want them to have help? Is it because you are afraid they will fall and no one will be there to pick them up, or that they aren't enjoying the level of comfort they deserve? You may try asking them to have a helper even one day a week so that you won't have to worry so much.
It may be easier for them to accept help if it isn't for their own needs, but for your sake.
3. Avoid power struggles.
Telling your parents what to do did not work well when you were a teenager, and even if a few decades have gone by, it still isn't going to work well now. No one, from the smallest toddler, to a grown adult, enjoys being bossed around by another person. Even if you think they need help, it’s important to respect their wishes and give them options even when trying to nudge them towards a specific choice.
4. Suggest a trial period.
Ask them if they'll just try a helper for a short period of time. A trial period can help them determine whether having someone there is useful to them, and give them a chance to see the benefits of someone being there to help with light housekeeping, running errands, or assisting with medication.
It's important to remember to honor their wishes once they finish the trial and decide they still don't want or need help. Until it becomes a safety issue, they are responsible for their own lives, and you need to respect that.
Losing independence is hard for older parents. When your parents say they don't want help, the problems they have with it go a lot deeper than letting someone wash their dishes. Understanding that, and avoiding turning their care into a power struggle, are important steps in making the transition as easy as possible for everyone.
For occasional, short term, or long term care, Homewatch CareGivers of Charlotte can put your mind at ease by being there to take the best care of your loved one. Contact our Charlotte, North Carolina office for more information.