Your parents are determined to continue living at home, but you’ve begun to wonder if it’s safe for them to do so. Are your regular visits enough? When is it appropriate to seek outside help?
A Proactive Approach
It’s human nature to wait for problems to arise before seeking solutions—and that reactive tendency is especially evident when it comes to caring for our aging parents.
“There are seasonal times that home care agencies see a rise in clients: right after Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas,” affirms Cheben.
In essence, we tend to make frantic calls to home care companies after we spend time at our parents’ house and see things like laundry piling up and a fridge filled with expired food.
If possible, however, Cheben recommends talking with your parents before there’s a problem, rather than waiting for them to fall or get sick. And one of the best ways to approach the home care conversation is to share firsthand experience.
In other words, if you’ve hired any kind of help in your home, such as cooking or cleaning, let your parents know how it’s benefited you, advises Cheben. By connecting your own experience to your parents’ situation, they may see home care as a relief of burdens rather than a loss of independence.
Baby Steps Are Best
For Cheben, the topic hits particularly close to home. When he became the primary care provider for his father, he soon realized that home care services could make a difference for his dad.
“Mom kept the house spotless, and Dad liked that,” he shares. “But after she passed away, he started to see he didn’t have that anymore.”
Rather than embarrassing his dad about the state of the house or shaming him into getting help, Cheben simply said, “I bet you miss how Mom cleaned the house.” That opened the door to a discussion about asking someone to come in and help clean.
And it wasn’t a one-and-done conversation. His dad didn’t say yes to home care immediately, but Cheben persisted, saying, “Let’s just try it once. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to do it again.” After that first time, though, Cheben says his dad was hooked.
Not only did he and his dad take baby steps in the conversation, they have also added home care services in increments.
“It’s easy to add a little bit at a time,” says Cheben. “Driving to appointments can lead to coming into the house and straightening up.”
By starting small—even just one hour a week—your loved one can grow accustomed to the help and even look forward to it. After starting with some light cleaning, a caregiver now cleans the whole house and cooks one hot meal for Cheben’s dad.
Finding the Right Fit
Though his dad was amenable to home care, Cheben warns that won’t be the case in every family.
“You’ve got to accept the fact that you can only offer so much advice,” he says. “You can’t force home care on someone who has all their faculties.”
But if your loved one is willing to give home care a shot, it’s a good idea to interview potential caregivers to find the right fit. After all, when it comes to home care companies, there can be vast differences in services provided and quality of care.
“The key to a good home care company is consistency,” says Cheben. “If there’s a revolving door—a different caregiver each time—that’s a problem.”
Cheben knew that home care was most likely to work well if his dad could get to know one caregiver, rather than meeting a new person each week. He was right. At this point in their journey, there’s a level of comfort because his dad has formed a bond with the caregiver, who knows exactly how he likes things done around the house.
And for Cheben, it’s a relief to know that someone else is looking out for his dad.
“I feel better knowing that my father is taking his medication when he’s supposed to, the house is clean, and he’s eating right,” he says. “And I can talk to someone else about how he’s doing—it’s an extra pair of eyes on Dad.”
SHARE YOUR STORY: Tell us about your family’s home care journey.