Although this is a conversation that could potentially be quite unpleasant, it is something that is likely to benefit both you and your parents in the long run. Finding out what their preferences are for future care enables you to ensure that any arrangements you make or live in care jobs you advertise are aligned as closely with their wishes as possible.
How to begin a conversation about care options
You may just be very organised and decide that having a conversation about future care is a sensible thing to do, despite the fact that your parents are fit and healthy. This might make instigating the talk a little easier because you aren’t suggesting that something needs to change imminently. More likely though, you have noticed that a parent is starting to find day to day tasks a little harder, or perhaps they have received a diagnosis about their health. In this situation, the chat needs to be managed sensitively.
Try and talk as far in advance as you can and respond with empathy. Obviously you don’t want to upset them. Ask what they think and what their preferences would be and actively listen to the response. Try not to bombard them with suggestions until you have finished listening, it may not be necessary.
It could be helpful to point out reasons why you’re having the conversation, gently suggest that you have become concerned for their safety or wellbeing. Don’t be surprised if they respond with anger, denial or fear, these are all normal responses to a frightening conversation. It is unpleasant for anyone to have to consider future care and loss of independence. However, with the right planning and a positive state of mind, changes can be beneficial and improve quality of life. This is particularly true of home care services as your parents may be able to remain in their own home with 24 hour care, which could be a favourable option for them.
What are the options?
Initially you may just be discussing domiciliary care to help with household chores. Pride can sometimes stand in the way of people accepting help so try to convince them of the ways in which it would be beneficial.
Sheltered housing could be the next step. This would provide accommodation with an alarm system and a warden on duty for people who are able to maintain a level of independence. For those who need help with personal care and require meals, a care home or live in care solution is the best option. This enables them to access help 24 hours a day.
It can be very tricky to have this conversation following a diagnosis of dementia or even a suspicion that your parents are becoming more forgetful and may be developing dementia. In this case, the illness can mean that their response isn’t entirely rational. It may even be helpful to get a GP or social worker to help with the conversation. A care assessment can help to establish what a person’s care needs are if they are not able to decide for themselves.