My parents don’t want help, but I know they need it.
We know your predicament. Your parents want to stay in their own home. They are strongly independent (stubborn?). You are concerned for them–it seems like they are going to take a fall sooner or later. And if they take a bad fall they might lose all their independence and end up in a nursing home permanently. Which seems crazy to you, because you know that if they would just accept a little help now (lose a little independence now), it will save them from losing all their independence later.
We know your situation. We hear it every day.
We want to give you some encouragement: You can get through to them. We see the break-through every day, too.
Here are several tips:
1) Introduce the topic gently, knowing that most of us are independent minded and we all would prefer to not have something pushed on us. Talking about something (briefly) a half dozen times over the course of 8-10 months can be much more palatable than one big lecture.
2) In your brief conversations introduce facts into your conversation. Again, not all at once, just drop them into the conversation now and again. Here are some facts to consider sharing:
93% of seniors want to stay at home, all the way to the end. Do you think this is what you would like?
According to the CDC, after the age of 65, we will take a fall every three years. How long ago did you take your last fall? Then, depending on their sense of humor, you might joke with them about whether they are due for another one soon!
The vast majority of seniors (and not only seniors) would prefer to simply go to sleep one night and not wake up the next morning. Wouldn’t that be nice, to just skip over the pain and difficulties of aging, and just have it all happen at once, in a matter of hours?
Do you ever have to carry anything on the stairs? What things do you carry up or down the stairs? One of the top three ways that we fall is on the stairs. Specifically, carrying something on the stairs.
Do you ever get a little scared of falling when you get out of the shower? The next most common place to fall is in the bathroom.
According to the CDC, 2% of falls will result in a hip fracture. Nearly all of these patients will never return home. 20% of them will die in one year from complications.
According to the CDC, 20 to 30% of senior falls cause the senior to “suffer moderate to severe injuries that make it hard for them to get around or live independently, and increase their risk of early death.” Put this together with the fact that seniors will fall every three years, and we must mathematically conclude that if we have lived past the age of 77 without a moderate to severe fall–one that has impaired our ability to get around or live independently–we are overdue for one.
3) At some point money is going to come up. “Not only do I not need help, I don’t want to spend the money for help!” Again, our advice is to keep these conversations gentle and come back to it later. The next time the conversation comes up and the mood seems right, you can try to appeal to their logic: What would be better, to spend $50/week for 10 years, or end up in a nursing home in 2 years and lose your house and all of your savings to Medicaid? (This is a simplification, but useful in getting your parent to think more logically about their situation financially–if you need support in going through numbers in detail we can recommend outstanding trusted senior advisers.) We have witnessed many clients grit their teeth and refuse to get even a little help, and within months the statistics catch up with them. One couple’s bottom-line: he saved $500 until he fell. He was rushed to the hospital (and passed away six weeks later from complications), leaving his wife who needed more care, to spend $50,000 over the next 18 months, until she passed away from a broken heart. They became our customer either way, and the better financial result for our company was for them to choose what they chose. But we are a different kind of senior care company. Our mindset is to protect our senior’s health and protect their independence–it deeply saddened us to get that phone call after he fell.
4) Ask your parents if they would be okay in just having your friend come over to visit. No decisions to be made. Just a visit from your friend. Once we meet your parents, in a familiar environment, we will be able to help the conversation progress along.
5) Talk to your parents about ‘trying out’ some help. We don’t have minimum hours so our people can come over to do what your parents wants to do. Go the movies, no problem. Go to the senior center to play Bingo, no problem. Pull some weeds in the garden or replace a light bulb, no problem. And there are no long term commitments so your parent can stop if they want to. But if we get to this point, they’re not going to want to.
In the meantime, we are here to encourage you. We have a simple mission: to be a blessing to seniors–your parents, you as their child, and our senior caregivers. We are all striving, with love in our hearts to make the world, in our own small way, a better place.
Kathy is a Certified Dementia Practitioner (CDP) who is active in several other senior related organizations, including Alzheimer’s State Champion program, Friends of the Northern Wake Senior Center board member, Ambassador for the Rolesville Chamber of Commerce, Aging Life Care Association (ALCA), Health Affairs Round Table (HART), and Senior Information Networking Group (SING).