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5 ways to persuade your parents to get the help they need

by Maryalene LaPonsie

Aging parents often want to hold on to their independence, but adult children may see that their loved ones need assistance. Here are some ways to suggest to parents that it's time to get some help.

Perhaps no situation is as awkward as an adult child having to convince a parent it is time to seek help.

"The biggest thing adult children feel is guilt," said Angela Moloney, sales associate for Porter Hills Retirement Communities & Services in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Few of us want to admit that parents have reached an age when they need extra assistance. Adult children may feel the responsibility to provide that support themselves. However, at a certain point, the pressures of the adult child's own family and the growing needs of the parent could mean that it is time to call in help.

Tactics to get your parents help

Elders may resist having discussions about this topic. You can try these strategies to convince a parent that it's time to ask for help.

1. Pick the right time and place for the conversation. Select a non-emotional location as the first step to having a successful conversation about such a sensitive subject.

Jennifer FitzPatrick, MSW, LCSW-C founded Jenerations Health Education, a consulting and education firm focused on geriatric health care, caregiving and dementia. She says it's probably not best to have the conversation right around the holidays or even at your parents' home. Instead, she advises heading out for breakfast or otherwise planning to have the discussion in a neutral location free of distractions.

2. Ask questions to direct the discussion. JoAnn Abraham, vice president of sales for Porter Hills, advises children to help lead their parents to a solution.

"Asking questions and letting them come to the answer is a good approach," she said.

Using this method, children can ask parents what they would do if they fell at home or if they could no longer perform household upkeep and daily tasks.

3. Know your options in advance. Rather than entering into this conversation blind, do your homework beforehand. Know exactly what services are available in your area and be ready with specific recommendations for your parent. Some parents might equate asking for help with losing their independence, and hearing the specifics of what you have in mind can be reassuring.

4. Point out the benefits. To further dispel any concerns about taking away a parent's independence, Moloney suggests steering the conversation to the benefits of home health care services.

"If they get meals and groceries delivered, it frees up time for other things," she said. "This also gives their children a chance to visit their parents instead of working for them."

Encourage parents to see how getting assistance with basic tasks can allow them more opportunities to pursue hobbies and personal interests.

5. Call in a higher authority. According to FitzPatrick, almost every family has an authority figure -- someone everyone takes seriously -- whether it's a relative, religious leader or even a favorite child. Although it can be difficult to admit, caregivers can sometimes be too close to the situation, and parents may need to hear from someone else that they should get help.

"I always tell adult children to keep their egos out of it," explained FitzPatrick.

Ultimately, adult children can beg and plead, but in the absence of severe dementia or personal safety concerns, the decision to seek help largely rests with the parent.

"Always remember the elderly person is a grown-up, not a child," said FitzPatrick. "Parents have a right to make bad decisions."

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