How to talk about aged care with your parents
It’s not easy to see our parents grow older. Perhaps you’ve watched your parents’ health or their ability to manage their home and normal routines change in ways that are starting to worry you. As your parents age, they become frail, experience serious health problems, begin to lose their social connections, and may grow deeply lonely and isolated.
You might feel sad and scared to have to say to your once highly capable parents, “I’m worried and I think you need help.”
Before you sit down with your parents to talk about your concerns for them, it’s vital you’re equipped with information about their aged care options, including the differences between residential and at-home care. Most people prefer to continue living in their own home, and at KinCare, we believe the only home you should be in is your own. That’s why we pave the way so that your parents can live the life they choose in the comfort of their own home.
Whether they need a few hours of domestic assistance each week or daily assistance, our connected care pathways can adapt over time to suit every stage of their life.
You can also visit myagedcare.gov.au to understand the types of aged care funding that they may be eligible for.
Involve your family and other trusted people
Family members can have very different expectations for how their parents will be cared for in old age. That’s why it’s so important to include your wider family in this journey and ensure you understand each other.
It’s possible you’ve already tried to talk to your parents about their aged care options and were met with resistance. If so, it can be helpful to enlist the support of other trusted people in their lives who can give an unbiased view on whether they could use some help. This extra support might come from your family doctor or another health professional, a caring neighbour or a close friend.
Pick the right time and place
When you’re informed with some options and have the support of your family, you’ll feel a lot more confident to talk to your parents about your concerns.
Nobody wants to feel distressed or rushed into a decision about their future care, so find a time to chat when you’re all feeling calm and happy, and know you won’t be interrupted.
Be honest, but don’t overwhelm them with information. It can be helpful to focus on just one issue. For example, you might mention you’ve noticed they haven’t been taking their medication regularly – and leave out mentioning you’ve noticed they haven’t been eating regular, nutritious meals for another time.
Don’t be discouraged if they don’t agree to use in-home care immediately. You might need to have a few chats like this.
Be supportive and focus on positives
Put yourself in your parents’ shoes. As an older person, who has lived a full and independent life, it’s scary and upsetting to realise that you’re no longer the robust person you once were – and that you really do need help. Show your parents that their needs are a priority by being kind, asking what they want, and actively listening.
Also, it’s a good idea to focus the discussion on what home care will mean for their future. In-home care is designed to help people thrive in their homes, so tell them about the incredible benefits to their lifestyle it will bring – less housework, getting out and about more, and the chance to spend more time on much-loved hobbies.
Make them feel in control
When so much is changing, it’s critical for your parents to feel they are still in control of their life. Don’t accuse or judge them, even if you feel worried and frustrated by their changing behaviours. Instead, focus on the issues that are concerning you, like signs of anxiety and depression.
Above all, make it clear that you are on their side, that you will support them in every way you can to stay in their home – and that they are in the driver’s seat.
One thing is clear – the earlier you notice the signs that a family member is struggling at home, the sooner you can take steps to help them improve their life. It’s much better if your family member is still well enough to have a say on the aged care they’ll receive. Getting support from a home care team can also help your family prepare for what is to come as your family member continues to age. This is especially important if they have been diagnosed with progressive disorders such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.
Some conversation dos and don’ts
- Don’t say “I think you need to be in a nursing home.”
- Do say “I know you want to stay in your own home as you grow older. How can we make that happen?”
- Don’t say “You’re not coping.”
- Do say “I’m concerned about you.”
- Don’t say “This garden is much too big for you to look after.”
- Do say “How would you feel if you had some help each week to potter in the garden?
At KinCare, our thirty years’ experience in helping older Australians live independently at home means we can offer expert support to prepare your parents for home care.
No matter what their needs, today you can take the first step to help your parents. Let’s work together to make a difference for them.