The relationship between seniors and adult children can be incredibly rewarding but also extremely challenging. As our parents age, roles tend to get reversed. This is a natural progression, but it can be frustrating for both parent and child. When our parents need help but aren’t ready to accept it, things become even more complicated. As family members, our goal is to preserve our loved ones’ dignity and treat them with compassion while guiding them and helping them stay safe.
One of the sticking points for many families is getting mom or dad to accept in-home help or a move to assisted living or long-term care. There’s often a point where children feel this is necessary, but the senior isn’t entirely on board. Cognitive issues, grief after the loss of a spouse, worries about finances and other emotional dynamics can complicate the situation. As the AARP points out, it sometimes takes a major event like a broken hip from a fall or a car accident to shift our loved ones’ perceptions. But as adult children, these are precisely the kinds of events we’re hoping to avoid.
Keeping Conversations Productive
Since most seniors continue to make their own decisions unless there’s a clear cognitive issue involved, it’s important to give them agency and a sense of self-determination. Instead of becoming a lecture from an adult child, conversations with aging parents should remain a two-way street. There are approaches we can take to make things go more smoothly:
- Set the right tone. Rather than talking to mom or dad as if they’re a child, engage in respectful dialogue.
- Stay calm and be patient as you encounter resistance.
- Ask questions: find out what their desires and needs are, especially after a significant life event like the loss of a spouse.
- Step back, check your expectations and focus on what will work best for your aging parent.
- Give your loved one choices: one common approach is offering a choice between in-home care or assisted living/long-term care.
- The AARP stresses the idea of empowerment. For example, remind your loved one that accepting some help can allow them to continue living independently.
My Loved One Is Resisting Additional Care-What Can I Do?
The need for more care (whether in-home or at a facility) can be one of the most challenging topics to address with aging parents. For example, your widowed dad needs supervision and assistance with daily living activities but doesn’t want to lose his independence. The Mayo Clinic offers several excellent tips for managing resistance to additional care:
- Suggest a trial run for in-home or long-term care to get your loved one comfortable with a new setting.
- Be positive when you describe the new setting in your conversations.
- Talk about finances. Financial concerns can dominate an aging parent’s fears of additional care–especially in a generation raised on penny-pinching. Carefully explain funding sources and what’s covered by Medicare, Medicaid or other insurance.
What If My Aging Parent Has Dementia?
When an aging parent has Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia, family decision-making can become painfully complicated. But there are a few approaches that can help when we encounter resistance to getting help or to a move to a memory care facility.
- A crucial step for all families is to plan ahead. Advance planning allows seniors to participate in decision-making before health conditions create a crisis. Encourage your loved ones to set up advance directives and designate a medical power of attorney so others can make decisions when necessary.
- Work as a team with family members. Helping a parent with dementia transition to a long-term care setting is often an all hands on deck effort, including siblings and spouse.
- Get your loved one’s doctor involved. They can help you make appropriate decisions regarding long-term care and find the best setting for your needs.
Choosing Long-Term Care When a Parent Resists
The decision to move to long-term care or a memory care facility is almost always a painful one, and things get even harder when it turns into a battle. But at a certain point, physical health or cognitive issues can make a move essential. Selecting a high-quality facility with supportive staff can make the process easier. Evergreen Health & Rehab offers long-term care for patients with chronic illness and specialized care for patients with Alzheimer’s. At Evergreen, the Journey unit provides patients with dementia a soothing, homelike setting and a team trained in memory care. We understand that the challenges are real, but knowing your loved one is in good hands can make transitions easier.