“I can talk to my dad about anything,” Dave of Winnipeg, Manitoba said. “But for some reason, I had a lot of trouble broaching the subject of home care.”
For many, talking to a loved one about getting help causes anxiety. Here are some tips for making the conversation less stressful.
- “We” is a magic word. Asking, “How am I going to manage your care?” makes your loved one a problem that needs solving. It would be better to start the conversation with “How can we make sure you are safe and healthy at home?” The word “we” fosters inclusion, making your loved one a participant in their own care.
- Consider your audience. You know your loved one best. You know what barriers exist to them being open to this conversation. Does your mother bristle when someone opens a door for her? She may not respond to the terms “help” or “personal support worker.” It may be better to frame it in purely practical terms of how to keep the place clean or how to make sure there is someone to look in on her when you cannot.
- Set a date. Call your aunt and say, “Aunt Marge, I am coming over Tuesday to clear up the yard. Then, I want to talk about our options for keeping the place clean through the spring since it’s my busy time at work.” Give time and space for the conversation to expand as needed.
- “We can always cancel.” Make everything a trial period. Try saying, “We can always cancel the service when I can step in and help.” This has the double benefit of giving your loved one a sense of control and choice. Often, the trial period is a positive experience and can seamlessly continue.
- Be prepared. Do your research into what services you feel would suit your loved one and bring relevant reading material with you. Download this Home Care Checklist and go through it with your loved one. Having print brochures along with clear questions and answers can prevent the conversation from becoming too abstract. Focus on what is possible.
- Listen. We all value being heard. You have your agenda, so lay out your case clearly and briefly. Then, work to really hear what your loved one is saying about their feelings about care, their fears and their reservations. This may be the first of many conversations, so listen for what is holding back your loved one.
- Enlist help. Refer to respected authorities in your conversation, especially those who already have a personal connection with your loved one. Talk to your family doctor, a clergy member or another professional who can reinforce your concerns and suggestions. Try not to gang up on your loved one but feel free to say something like, “I talked to Dr. Selk about this, and she thinks it could be helpful. Will you talk to her?”
- Concentrate on the most pressing issues. If there is an immediate safety or health concern, focus on solving that. If your loved one agrees to meal delivery but does not want personal support workers in their home, count that as a win. You can always try again.
Dave from Winnipeg prepared. He did everything by the book. His father still answered his suggestions with a resolute “No.” You may do everything right and still face resistance. That is OK.
Opening the subject will plant an idea in your loved one’s mind. Dave’s dad may circle back to him in a month or so and revive the conversation. The earlier you start this conversation, the better. Do not wait for an injury or a crisis to force the discussion. Good luck.