Care can be a difficult topic to discuss with loved ones. This is because it’s not uncommon for those in need of care to associate it with a loss of independence, or even failure – which can bring on stress or other strong emotions.
This means that conversations around care often benefit from plenty of sensitivity, patience, and cooperation; as well as a conscious effort to help your loved one see the many benefits of receiving care.
Naturally, this isn’t always straightforward. So, to try to make things a little easier, we’ve put together seven ideas to think about when talking to a loved one about care. We hope you find them useful.
1. Think about what type of care your loved one may benefit from
It doesn’t necessarily take long to come to the conclusion that a loved one needs care. For example, if they’re no longer able to carry out daily tasks by themselves, you have concerns over their safety, or if they’re returning home from hospital after an extended stay.
There are various types of care, and each one will be better suited to particular needs and situations. For example, home care, which involves daily visits from a carer, can be ideal for people who can no longer carry out daily tasks by themselves, but wish to stay at home. While for someone living with dementia, 24/7 care, such as that offered in a residential care home, may be better suited.
With so many care options available, it’s worth taking considerable time to think about which would best suit your loved ones needs. Doing this research before opening up a conversation around care with your loved one can help things go more smoothly.
If you’d like further information on different types of care available, have a read of our article; 7 common types of care explained.
2. Consider planting the seed early
Transitioning from living independently to accepting and arranging care is often a very gradual process, and something that requires more than a one time discussion. With this in mind, there are a number of benefits that can come from starting conversations around care early.
Firstly, planting the seed around the idea of care and letting it settle for a little while can allow your loved one time valuable to consider, and perhaps come to terms with the idea of care without added pressure. It can also take away some of the shock, if and when the time comes to properly discuss care at a later date.
Another benefit to discussing care early is that conversations are more hypothetical, which can take away some of the rawness of it – helping everyone involved to view situations more objectively, without a strong emotional influence.
For example, if, at this moment in time, you were asked whether or not you’d accept care later in life to help with the things you could no longer do for yourself, we can expect that the majority of us would answer with a confident yes – because it’s the most practical response.
In the same way, discussing the idea of care with a loved one as early as possible can sometimes encourage them to consider the practicalities alongside any emotion that may arise later on.
While these benefits can result in more productive future discussions around care, it’s still important to approach the topic with sensitivity – and to strike a balance between having open and honest conversations with loved ones and giving them enough breathing space to process things.
3. Take time to think about the situation from your loved one’s perspective
Conversations about care can be difficult and emotional. This is because many people associate needing care with a loss of independence and may feel embarrassed, upset, or even ashamed that they can no longer do all the things they used to. For those who’ve been independent their entire lives, this can be especially difficult or painful to accept.
It’s easy to want to approach the topic of care from a purely practical perspective, especially when we just want to do what’s best for a loved one. But try to remember that for the person needing care, it can be a mentally challenging time too.
It’s worth taking the time to understand and appreciate things from your loved one’s perspective, and put yourself in their shoes. This can help you approach them with greater empathy, patience, and sensitivity – especially when conversations become difficult or frustrating.
For further guidance on this, you might like to have a read of this article, Why your senior loved one may be reluctant to accept help, from Companions for Senior.
4. Think about the timing and location of your conversation
When the time for discussing care options properly does come around, it’s important to talk in an environment that your loved one feels comfortable in, where you can both relax. This will make it easier for each of you to speak openly, listen, and communicate honestly – without having to worry about distractions or people eavesdropping.
For example, discussing care in a private and familiar setting, such as your own home, is likely to invite honesty and vulnerability more than a busy coffee shop.
Another thing to think about is timing. Allowing plenty of time for conversations is key, so it’s best to avoid dropping the topic of care in at the end of a visit or telephone conversation – and instead, to anticipate that the conversation could be lengthy.
It’s also worth considering your loved one’s mindset around the time you plan to have a conversation and, where possible, to bring it up at a time when they’re feeling more positive. If they’re having a bad day or have other worries on their mind, it might be more beneficial to wait.
That being said, try not to overthink the timing of your conversation too much. Everyone is different and while one approach may work for some, for others it might not be the right fit – so it’s important to trust your own judgement and intuition. Remember, you know your loved one and so will likely be able to get a natural sense of when is a good time to speak to them about care.
5. Be prepared for difficult responses
While everyone hopes for a simple, straightforward conversation about care, this isn’t always the case. For example, some people may refuse to accept that they need help, insist that they can manage on their own, or in some cases, even refuse to talk at all.
While this can be difficult, it’s important to remember that these reactions are completely normal because, as mentioned above, care can be a sensitive topic. That being said, there are a few things you can do to hopefully reach a positive outcome.
The most important thing is to remind your loved one from the get-go that you want to do what’s best for them, and that care could be a solution to make their life easier. Then, for example, in a situation where your loved one’s refusing to accept the offer of care, you might find it useful to sensitively discuss and highlight things it could help with, in the hope of bringing the reality of their current situation to light.
However, if at any point you find yourself becoming overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to take a step back and seek advice from a professional, such as your GP. Sometimes, this insight can help people understand that they need support.
6. Speak positively
While care is sometimes seen as negative, the truth is that it can be an incredibly positive experience – and in many cases, offer people a new lease of life. Talking about some of the positives and benefits of care with your loved one may help them to develop a new perspective, and even feel excited at the prospect of what it could bring.
For example, we know from research that elderly people who live alone are among some of the loneliest people in the UK – with over one million older adults feeling lonely all the time, or often. Aside from practical help, in many cases, care can also provide people with great companionship. Live-in care in particular, has been found to significantly reduce feelings of loneliness and boost physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.
When it comes to fearing a loss of independence, it can also be useful to remind your loved one that care doesn’t necessarily mean having to move out of their home. For example, a number of options, including live-in care, day care, and overnight care are all based around care at home. And in many cases, people find that care actually helps them regain independence.
Our article, What are the benefits of live-in care, outlines plenty more benefits. Alternatively, if you’re more likely going down the route of residential care, you might like to have a read of this article from Care Home instead.
7. Keep your loved one involved
Everyone wants to be able to make decisions over where they’ll live and what kind of care they receive – and this preference doesn’t change with age. Therefore, it’s important to make your loved one feel as involved as possible.
It can be easy to go into organisational mode and want to sort everything out yourself when it comes to a loved one’s care plan. But it’s important that your loved one plays as much of a role in the decision-making process as they wish to. Even in circumstances where you’ll need to arrange the care yourself, this remains important.
Feeling understood and listened to can also help to manage the loss of independence and control that your loved one may be experiencing.
Care is a sensitive topic for many people, which can sometimes make it difficult to talk about.
However, taking the time to plan ahead, start conversations early, and approach situations with plenty of patience and empathy are all things that can help make it that little bit easier. In fact, it’s possible that the conversations you have could be the beginning of an exciting new chapter for your loved one.