“How do I handle the problem of getting my Mom to accept some help in her home?” asks the concerned daughter. I receive numerous phone calls from adult children about this dilemma. Adult children are faced with the task of persuading a parent to have some assistance in their home. The difficulty is broaching the subject with the parent. The family must also overcome any objections from the parent. The parent and family must also agree on implementation of the home health care services.

I want to share some advice, specifically targeted to aging parents who are alert and capable mentally of making good decisions. This is important because a parent suffering from memory loss, Alzheimer’s, and confusion cannot be approached using the same tactics.

Step One: Adult child makes the initial phone call to the home health care agency and gathers pertinent information. Ask for brochures. The internet is also a good research source.

Step Two: Focus on the parent’s needs. Explain to the provider your concerns and describe the parent’s self-care deficits. Give specific examples of why your parent can no longer live alone without some help. List the tasks that are unsafe or unacheivable for your parent at this time.

Step Three: Ask the provider how they can help fill-in the gaps of performing tasks that your parent can no longer complete. Ask the provider what level of care would be appropriate for your parent. Choose an approximate amount of help for your parent.

The goal of steps one through three is for the adult child to attain a basic understanding of the type of home health care that is available for his or her parent.

Step Four: Share this information with your parent. This is the part that really frightens the adult child! All sorts of emotional responses come out of the imagination. “Mom will get angry at me for suggesting that she needs help!” “Mom will deny that she needs assistance!” “Dad will never give up driving!” “Dad will tell me to mind my own business!”

My experience has shown that the best way to get a parent to agree to some help is to include them in the decision-making process. This means to include the parent in a face-to-face conference with the adult child and the provider of service. The purpose of this meeting is to review the specific needs of the parent. The adult child can expect some disagreement from the parent in this area of discussion. Keep calm and reference facts about the parent’s health limitations and safety issues. Do not get into a power struggle!

Here are the most frequent reasons given by a parent to refuse help and advice on how to respond:

1) “I don’t need (or want) any help.”

– The parent is denying the problem that the adult child wants to address. State why you want them to have some help. Reference facts about the parent’s health limitations and safety concerns.

2) “My neighbor (or friend) helps me.”

– Discuss the reliability of the neighbor acting as caregiver. Does her or his availability and knowledge meet the needs of the parent?

3) “You (or another family member) can help me.”

– This is your chance to explain your own limitations as caregiver on-call at all times. Reference instances when you have not been able to help. Ask your parent, “How do you feel when you have to ask for help?” For most parents, it is a double-edged sword. They ask you to help them because they feel secure with your help. They also fear becoming a burden to their children.

4) “That costs too much!”

– One daughter responded, “Mom, do you think it is cheap for me to fly down here on the spur of the moment and miss time from work?” Analyze the total costs, both in time, emotional turmoil, and money. Another daughter responded, “Mom, I wouldn’t do this job for any amount of money!” The best approach is to reassure your parent that based on your current research (thanks to the phone call in step #1) that the costs are reasonable. You can also help research the possibility of insurance or other resources contributing to the payments.

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