Convincing Your Aging Parents to Accept HelpConvincing Your Aging Parents to Accept Help

No matter what you’ve accomplished in life, one of the most challenging tasks you may face is persuading a beloved parent or relative to accept help, especially if they’ve always been proud, private, or independent. Here are some tips to make your case when you see that your parents need assistance with housekeeping, cooking, self-care, or other tasks.

Talk it over with your siblings and other family members first

Before you bring up hiring help with Mom or Dad, touch base with your siblings (if any) and other family members who are invested in their wellbeing. You may find there are differences of opinion that you all need to sort out first before you talk to your parents. If the family agrees on the type of help your parents need, that’s a strong argument in favor of your point of view. If some of you want different types of help, that gives your parents more than one option to consider.

Get your parent’s trusted advisors on board

Let’s face it; you’ll always be your parents’ child. No matter how much they respect your opinion your parents most likely don’t view you as a peer. That’s why many eldercare experts recommend recruiting your parents’ doctor, close friends, or clergy to talk with them about help. Their opinions may carry enough weight to convince your parents to give it a try.

Be patient and keep the conversation going—respectfully

When you see your parents having difficulty with things they used to handle with ease, you may think the need for help is obvious. But we all adjust to changes over time, often without realizing it. Or we may know we need help and hope no one else notices. Either way, consider your parents’ self-image and feelings whenever you bring up the need for care. Remember, too, that the final say is up to them.

Because the decision is theirs, listen to what they have to say on the subject. There may be specific things they’re concerned about. The cost of help, the potential awkwardness of having an unfamiliar person in the home, and the fear of losing autonomy are common worries among older adults. You may be able to find ways to work around these concerns, but first you have to find out what they are.

Take help one small step at a time

Shepell FGI, a Canadian family assistance program provider, recommends getting reluctant parents on board by starting with one small, relatively inexpensive service. In today’s economy, you’ve got a nearly endless list of options, including grocery delivery, housecleaning, laundry and ironing, in-home tech support visits, errand driving, in-home meal preparation, and yard maintenance. You might convince parents with pets to try a dog walking service or mobile pet grooming. A parent with a pool may be ready to outsource cleaning and maintenance to the pros.

A positive experience with a small service can set the stage for your folks to accept other help more readily as it’s needed. It can also serve as a trial run to show your parents what’s involved in screening, hiring, and managing help in the home, so they’ll feel more experienced and capable when it’s time to make the next help decision.

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance writer whose childhood was made awesome by her grandmothers, great-grandmother, great-aunts and -uncles, and their friends.

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