What if my Parents are Resistant to Home Care?

Do you feel as though one or both of your parents need some extra help at home, yet they have expressed apprehension or even outright refused to engage a professional Caregiver? You are not alone- many, if not most of the families who Avila Home Care serves, have at least some hesitation about home care before they become Avila’s clients. 

In some cases, the person who needs the assistance is the most reluctant to receive it. In other cases, the person who has been doing the caregiving for their loved one might be the most resistant and may need convincing. If that family caregiver is a spouse, they may feel a sense of duty- that they signed up for “for better or for worse, for sickness and in health”. 

A caregiver who is a significant other or spouse might often feel a moral obligation, as well as love, for their loved one that they express through their caregiving. They may feel protective, and in cases of dementia or other illnesses, they may have been compensating for the challenges that their spouse has been facing so that other family members might not even know the extent of the challenges. The spouse may be facing their own sadness and fear watching their loved one decline, and all the emotions related to aging and grieving about how life used to be. They may feel overwhelmed, not be sleeping well, and isolated if they haven’t had a break, especially in cases where their loved one can’t be left alone.

In other situations, family caregivers and their loved ones may feel as though bringing someone else in to help is an invasion of their privacy, and they may feel embarrassed or modest about having a “stranger” taking care of them. Some may even express fear about having a person who they don’t know come into their home at all.

Often Avila receives calls from a son or daughter concerned about both parents- the one who needs the caregiving, as well as the spouse who has been the caregiver for months or even years. Sometimes adult children reach out to Avila because both parents actually need support from a professional Caregiver, yet one of the parents who might have a bit more capacity to help dress, feed, and/or bath their loved one has taken on the bulk of caregiving duties despite being vulnerable or ill themselves.

Recently, a daughter called Avila Home Care seeking home care for her father. He has advanced dementia, including both physical and cognitive challenges that were making it difficult for her mother to care for him. Her mother, meanwhile, had her own health challenges (previous strokes), and the daughter was very concerned that her mother was overexerting herself doing laundry, preparing meals, and trying to bathe, dress and help her father. 

Her mother couldn’t leave her father at home alone, and so was having trouble getting out of the house during the day to buy groceries and run other errands. Because her father was restless and even often became aggressive at night, her mother was getting very little sleep. All of this combined had become quite a concerning situation. The daughter felt as though her father might actually be responsive to a professional Caregiver, but try as she might, she couldn’t convince her mother to bring in help. 

We shared with the daughter how Avila suggests approaching this type of situation: 

  1. First, try to put yourself in your parents’ shoes- for most of their lives, they have likely been living very independently, and the thought that they’d need someone to come into their home might be a blow to their pride and dignity.
  2. Do research before you have the conversation so that you know what options are out there- perhaps they need home health care, or simply personal or companion care. Do they need someone who specializes in memory care, or who can drive a loved one to appointments or run errands outside of the house? 
  3. If you have siblings or other family members who have a close connection and would like to be a part of the decision-making process, you can share your research about home care options with them, as well as the ideas in this article for broaching the topic with your parents.
  4. Let your parents know the assistance isn’t just for them, but it’s for YOU (and/or your siblings) too, and how as the son/daughter you’ve been taking on a lot, which you are more than happy to do, but it just isn’t sustainable, especially if you are balancing a job and/or caring for children. In fact, they might not feel like they need assistance because you’ve been doing so much for them. You could say something like, “I’m asking for the help because I need the help”- this might inspire a shift in their thinking. If you live far away from your parents, or simply haven’t been able to provide much help given your other obligations, share with them that having a professional Caregiver will give you peace of mind because you can’t be there to help as much as you’d like to. 
  5. If either or both of your parents feel(s) like they don’t need “babysitting” or “care”, you could pitch it simply as “some help around the house- tidying up, doing laundry, cooking some meals, running errands, and picking up groceries- wouldn’t that be nice?” 
  6. Perhaps reach out to a trusted professional who you know your parents respect, such as their doctor, accountant, attorney or religious leader. Express your concerns to this person, and ask whether they might have a conversation with your parents. Taking you out of the equation might make it easier for your parents to accept the idea.
  7. Giving a gentle (or firm) ultimatum may be something you have to do if you feel as though their health and safety are at risk. Concerns such as missed or inaccurate medication consumption and/or fall risks are absolutely valid reasons to take this approach. Along with making clear your concerns about these risks, you can let them know that either they need to go to an assisted living community or allow professional home care to provide support.   
  8. You can also say something along the lines of “Let’s just have someone come in for a few days and see how it goes- no commitment.” Places like Avila Home Care require no long-term commitment, and one of our Caregivers can come to the house for as little as 2 hours- perfect for your folks to try out how it feels to have someone help out. Often times what happens with these “trial runs” is that your loved ones and the family caregiver feel a huge sense of relief. 
  9. Please do not take your parents’ resistance personally. Making the transition to parenting your parents is a very difficult journey for many adult children, whether you are navigating how to get someone medical help when they refuse or broaching the topic of home care. Years of family dynamics and your experiences both as a child and adult with your parents may complicate matters. Focus on and base your decision on simple facts, rather than letting emotions or guilt guide you and your parents during this difficult time. But above all, let your parents know that you love them and that you have their best interests at heart. 
  10. Avila Home Care can help you to navigate through your parents’ resistance. We are happy to speak directly with one or both of your parents and provide any other support to help your family reach a decision. Most importantly, we can help you to get your parents the help they need.

Please feel free to watch a video of Avila Home Care’s Founder and CEO, Danny O’Brien, as he discusses ways to approach the question “What if My Loved One is Resistant to Home Care?” https://vimeo.com/493859073 , and call us at 410-826-6100 to let us know how we might be helpful- you are not alone! 

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