How to approach talking about care
Approaching the topic of needing care with a loved one can be difficult and uncomfortable for all involved. Taking certain steps in the way you approach the subject can help you all come to a joint decision together without too much stress or upset.
Think about timing and place
The most important thing to remember is to have open channels of communication from the very beginning of the conversation. Setting out the options clearly and without bias will let your loved one know that the decision is theirs to make and you are simply informing them of what is available because you care about their well-being and safety. It’s important to consider the timing of your conversation so your loved one is more likely to be receptive and cooperative. Try and find a time where you’ll be able to talk about their concerns without feeling rushed and when you’re both in the right frame of mind.
Plan what you want to say
Remember to stay calm and have your resources and information to hand. Think best about how to open the conversation, possibly bring up a concern about one area of their well-being such as their mobility or the cleanliness of their house, rather than jumping straight in with care options and possibly scaring them.
Use a gentle and encouraging tone and listen to their responses. Try to remain impartial at this stage to reassure them that the decision is in their hands, and you are only here to help.
If they are upset or finding the conversation difficult, allow them to speak for as long as they need to and pay close attention to what they’re saying. If you can identify what they’re concerned about, you can use your previous research to advise them of the options available to them and find a solution together.
Finding the right words to say can be difficult, especially if your loved one is resistant to the idea of care. Instead of using the words ‘care’ and ‘carer’, try using words like ‘support’, ‘personal assistant’ and ‘companion’. You may find that your loved one is more open to the idea of additional help if they feel there are just having ‘some help around the house’ instead of being cared for.
Take Your Time
Make it clear that this is just the beginning of the conversation, no decisions needed to be made immediately and you are just exploring options for now or indeed the future.
Patience is key, especially if your loved one is living with a progressive condition such as dementia. Time can be your greatest asset; deciding on care can take weeks, months or even a year or two, but it allows you to take the time to guide your loved one and deal with every situation as it comes up, helping them to understand the reality of their situation and their need for additional help.
Common responses and how to react:
Refusing to talk
If your loved one refuses to talk to you about their care needs, try not to take it to heart. It may be that they would feel more comfortable talking to someone who is not as close to the situation – perhaps a friend or healthcare professional.
How to react:
Ask them if there’s someone you can help them reach out to or consider asking for professional advice from someone who deals with these situations regularly, such as a GP.
Refusing to accept their condition
Whether your loved one has recently been diagnosed with a progressive condition or they are simply becoming frailer as they grow older, it can be difficult for them to accept the changes that they are facing in their lives. Acceptance makes it real, so your loved one may find it easier to cope with these changes by overlooking them completely.
How to react:
Have patience. Empathize with them and reassure them that you are here to help them find the right support so that they can carry on as they were, just with a little help along the way.
Insisting they can manage on their own
If your loved one is fairly independent, accepting the need for additional support will understandably be very difficult for them. It may be that they don’t recognise how their health or mobility has deteriorated over time or the fact they need any help.
How to react:
Ask your loved one if there is anything they feel they are finding more difficult. Create a list of examples where you have seen your loved one struggle, real-life examples may make them think twice. Ask other family members to also give examples, don’t overwhelm them with too much evidence, just enough to open their eyes up to the reality of the situation.
If you’re unsure about approaching the topic of care reach out for advice. You might find comfort in confiding in another member of the family or a close friend who may have had a similar experience themselves. There are organisations such as Age UK and Independent Age who have lots of advice or your local GP might also be able to help.
If your loved one is considering care support, introducing care on a short-term basis can be a good way to help them gauge the level of care that is right for them. We are happy to chat through options that work for them in regards to their care needs, visiting preferences and home set-up. We could look to introduce a trial period of care rather than commit to anything long-term which may seem overwhelming to them. Making sure the conversation about care and support, and any following actions, goes at the pace of your loved one will be key in coming up with a solution that works for all parties.