As you watch your parents and other important loved ones grow older, you’re bound to have some questions — and quite a few fears. More likely than not, your senior loved one is right there with you, sharing many of the same anxieties, thoughts, and concerns about the future.
Still, it can feel daunting to bridge this divide, and start having important conversations about long-term care — and help your aging loved ones connect with the type of care that will be the right fit. These are challenges that thousands of “Sandwich Generation” adults go through every day, and you’re certainly not alone if you’re experiencing stress and confusion as you go through a “role reversal” with your aging parent.
Need a little bit of good news? When it comes to preparing for the future, an important body of research suggests that you and your senior loved ones may be more on the same page than you might think.
Getting Started With Long-Term Care: The Emotional Hurdles for Seniors and Caregivers
As a family caregiver, it’s only natural to want to help your loved one get the highest quality care possible. At the same time, we know that many family caregivers are nervous about some of the factors outside of their control. When it comes to long-term care, there’s a lot to think about, after all — from your loved one’s budget and finances, to their preferences and needs as a long-term care recipient.
In many families, the thought of helping a loved one get started with long-term care can be daunting. Studies have shown that discussions about aging are some of the conversations that adults most dread having with their parents. What if your loved one is not receptive to your ideas? What if they get angry or defensive? What if both of you start to feel vulnerable?
Aging is a complex topic, and there’s no denying that it can be a sensitive one for seniors. Talking about long-term care can cause many older adults to feel like they’re losing their independence, or trigger their anxieties about changing their situation or meeting new people.
Family members of aging adults may go through a similar set of emotions that are just as raw, and just as important to face. Many adult children worry that they’re abandoning their senior loved ones; others start to feel guilty, or like they’re weak for seeking out help. In some cases, family caregivers may try to push aside these thoughts by working even harder — only to eventually face burnout, stress, and physical pain as a result.
When you go into discussions about care with a senior, it’s important to take all of these emotional perspectives into account. Be compassionate and understanding; try to listen more than you speak; ask questions and get to know your loved one’s point of view; and be sure to talk with your aging parent as you would any other adult. Remind your loved one that you have their best interests at heart and that you want to help them live independently and safely. Try to get on the same team, so you can work together to find meaningful solutions that will make everyone as happy as possible.
Of course, it’s still easy to go into these important conversations feeling like you and your senior loved one are going to be a million miles apart when it comes to many key points. However, some fascinating surveys indicate that older adults and their kids may have more similar opinions about aging, housing, and long-term care than you might expect — and this can make finding the right path forward a whole lot easier.
Long-Term Care Preferences: Older Adults Want Outside Help
Many family caregivers are reluctant to bring up the idea of home care or companion care with their senior loved ones — partially out of a fear that older adults will be incredibly resistant to getting help.
In reality? Some important findings suggest that seniors may be more open to getting help at home than you might expect.
Aging In Place
For one thing, home care is a powerful way for older adults to remain at home as they grow older — the leading preference among the vast majority of seniors. Indeed, “aging in place” is remarkably popular among the elderly, most of whom want to stay connected to their home and community, rather than uproot their lives and transition into costly and restrictive institutional care. Research from the AARP suggests that nearly 80% of adults age 50 and older say that they want to remain in their communities and homes as they age.
Similarly, a 2016 poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs found that 77% of adults “would prefer to receive care in their home” — making home-centered care significantly more popular than receiving care in a senior community (11%), a friend or family member’s home (4%), or a nursing home (4%). This lines up with the preferences of care providers, 67% of whom say that they “would prefer for their loved ones to receive care” at home.
It’s easy to see why aging at home is so popular among both seniors and their families. Receiving care at home is more convenient, flexible, and affordable than many other long-term care options. It allows older adults to maintain their independence, remain connected to their communities, and enjoy the comforts of a space filled with memories and history.
Aging in place is one area where older adults and younger generations can agree — but what about the type of care? Many family caregivers are often hesitant about bringing up the idea of a professional caregiver or senior companion, fearing that their parents or elderly loved ones may be dismissive or argumentative on the subject.
Certainly, there are many seniors who will be resistant to getting help from a professional caregiver. In many cases, meeting new people and undergoing changes like this can be difficult for older adults, at least initially. You know your family, and it may fall to your and your loved one’s caregiving network to determine if your loved one is too shy, combative, or resistant for a senior companion to be a good fit.
In other cases, however, your loved one may be more amenable to the idea of professional help than you might expect. For instance, a prominent 2017 survey from the Alzheimer’s Association suggests that adults of all ages are deeply interested in protecting the health and well-being of their support network.
In fact, the survey reveals that people’s most significant fear in aging is about “being a burden on their loved ones” as they grow older. 71% of survey respondents said that they fear being a burden to a “spouse/partner,” and 70% worry about being a burden to their children. People ranked their fear of becoming a burden well above their fears of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s/dementia (59%), moving into a nursing home (56%) or even dying (46%).
In line with this, the Alzheimer’s Association study suggests that far more people would prefer a professional caregiver, compared to relying on family or friends. According to the survey, people trust professional caregivers as much as their own mothers — and call professionals “14% more desirable a caregiver than their children.” To wit, 79% of respondents said that they would trust a professional caregiver, and 74% would want a professional caregiver to help manage the conditions that come with aging. This means that adults want to get help from a professional caregiver more than they want to get help from their parents (40% father, 50% mother), their children (65%), their siblings (43%), or a close friend or neighbor (37% and 12%, respectively).
While seniors may have some initial hesitation about welcoming a companion into their homes, there are many things that family caregivers can do to make the transition easier. Ultimately, many older adults care deeply about their loved ones, and don’t want to add stress or discomfort to their lives. Many older adults may also welcome caregivers who can help them accomplish activities of daily living (ADLs) that may be difficult for a family member, such as grooming or using the restroom. In other cases, older adults welcome the chance to connect with a new friend, someone with whom they can share meals, swap stories, play games, and go on adventures.
Companions for Seniors Is Here to Help
Are you a loving and supportive family member of an aging adult? If so, you may be wondering when the time will be right to start those important long-term care conversations – or if now is the moment to start putting a care plan into action.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions or concerns. We’re here to help make things easier for family caregivers and their aging loved ones.
Caring for others isn’t just what we do; it’s our passion. We’re always here to be an open and sympathetic ear, and we’re happy to help guide you in the right direction when it comes to all things long-term care.
Here at Companions for Seniors, our mission is to empower seniors to live independently and with dignity in the comfort of home by helping them to lead an active and enriched lifestyle, connecting them with their community, and nurturing meaningful relationships.
Our Companions are bonded and highly trained, and our team can help your loved ones develop and implement a personalized care plan, typically within just a few days. Our goal is to help the older adult in your life maintain a higher quality of life — physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually — while giving you a chance to get some much-needed respite.
Have any questions? Ready to start thinking seriously about long-term care? We’d love to point you in the right direction. Reach out online today to get the conversation started, or give us a call at 866-910-9020.