Watching parents age can be a difficult transition. They have provided and taken care of their children or others, but as they've aged and become frail, the caregiving roles have frequently become reversed. As parents begin to need more help, they may find it difficult to accept. To help senior parents accept help, Leslie Kernisan, MD, a San Francisco geriatrician, recommends the following four tips (with editorial comments added by AAging Better):
Rule out cognitive function issues first. As people age, it’s common to experience decreased brain function that can affect logical decision-making. Cognitive impairment can sometimes be reversed (as in the case of delirium from an illness or hospitalization, malnutrition from a poor diet, or depression). Or, there may be an underlying problem such as Alzheimer’s or dementia. If cognitive problems are suspected, get help from the physician.
Listen to, consider, and validate the parents’ perspective. Emotions can run high when it comes to debating the need for help. Utilize active listening so that everyone involved in the conversation knows that they’ve been heard. Having a mediator, such as a therapist or facilitator or a geriatric care manager, can also help keep the discussion moving and productive.
Discuss goals, and try to compromise. Common goals of aging parents include staying at home as long as possible, staying in control of their daily lives, maintaining quality relationships with loved ones, and keeping pain and suffering to a minimum. Surprisingly, safety may not be a top priority, especially if it conflicts with independence. Compromising may be necessary to come to decisions that are acceptable to both the children and the parents. The important thing is to validate what is most important to the aging parent first, and try to accommodate for that. It may not be the same priority for all.
Separate personal needs from those of the parents. While difficult to admit, sometimes our intentions for parents stem from an underlying issue, such as guilt, sibling conflict, a need for control, or simply fear of the many unknowns that occur as our parents age. Dr. Kernisan suggests creating a list of our own fears and wishes about our parents, and then try to address those while honoring the parents’ goals as well.
AAging Better In-Home Care, serving North Idaho, provides a variety of home care services to assist the elderly or frail senior and would love to learn about your unique situation. Contact us today and we will be happy to schedule an in-home meeting to ease a parent's apprehensions about accepting some support to live a richly rewarding life in the comfort of their own home.