Today, more than one in four adults in America is caring for a loved one who needs help, usually a parent. Here in Connecticut, it’s estimated that more than 700,000 residents are providing unpaid care for a loved one at some point during the year. Many times an adult child is cast suddenly into this role after an aging parent suffers a fall or a medical crisis. But more often, a parent’s need for support happens gradually and may not be so obvious. The holidays are a great time to assess how your loved ones are doing to determine if they may need some extra help.
Use this helpful list of things to observe and ask about when you visit your parents over the holidays.
The answer to these questions will give you a clearer picture of how your parents are faring and will help you assess their needs. Not every change is a cause for alarm, but it does signal the time when you should start having conversations with your older parents about getting help with managing daily tasks.
When the time is right to begin the conversation, here are some tips from Nicole Duritz, Vice President of Health at AARP, to help you get started:
- Determine who and when. Adult children often play different roles within a family. Figure out who your parents might be most receptive to talking with and find a time when there isn’t stress from an event or an illness.
- Ease into the conversation. You might break the ice by asking your parent’s advice about organizing important documents. Mention an article you read, or another older person who is successfully managing life with the use of technology or services. Remember these conversations will likely take place over time.
- Leave room for choice. Placing demands on your parents, or telling them what you think they need to do, will usually lead to resentment. Be open to discussing options and listening to everyone’s perspective. Unless your parents have a cognitive impairment, remember that they have the right to make their own decisions even if you disagree.
- Shift the concern to you. Be open with your concerns. Let them know that the conversation stems from your love and your worry about their safety. By accepting help, they would be easing your fears.
- Call in back up. When repeated conversations lead nowhere, you might bring in a trusted relative, friend, doctor or minister to discuss your concerns. You can also tap into professionals who work with older people in your community.