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How to Talk to Mom versus Dad About In-Home Care

Posted on: Feb 07, 2021

Watching an older parent age and become more frail and vulnerable is hard for many of the 44 million American family caregivers of those over the age of 50. As our parent held our hands to balance our steps, made our meals, bathed us, etc. many adult children find themselves in this same position helping and caring for an aging parent. But, getting quality help with activities of daily living (called ADLs) in order to keep a parent at home as long as possible can not only be affordable but can give everyone – mom or dad and the adult child caregiver – a sense of safety, security and satisfaction.

Having the conversation with our older loved ones about their long-term care or aging in place needs is one of the most difficult discussions we encounter in life – for both parents and adult children. Our need to deny the challenges facing a parent that comes with the bonus years we call “longevity” and their twin needs of not burdening us and not feeling a loss of control and freedom, often make this a conversation we all skip.

Here are some insights and tips on how to have the conversation with a parent about securing in-home care.

The Caregiving Conversation with Dads

Although it sounds stereotypical, most of our fathers (if you are a Baby Boom or Gen X adult) were the head of the household. Many young children can repeat the refrain from our mothers when we misbehaved, “Wait until your father gets home.” Fathers see their role as protecting and providing for their families. Thus, our aging fathers find themselves in new territory when it is them needing the care.

According to research professor and author Carol Gilligan who has focused her studies on on gender differences (In A Different Voice), fathers sometimes have a harder time accepting change. Their fear of change is that it may mean they are not in control, they may not be consulted on decisions and they are not strong enough to perform daily activities without help. On the flip side, a study conducted by Northwestern Mutual found that more fathers talk to their adult children about their long-term care plans and wishes than our mothers.

For fathers, focus on not calling the in-home caregiver a “caregiver.” Rather convince dad he needs a personal assistant around the house. This puts him in a supervisory, directorial role. Instead of feeling vulnerable he feels he is in charge. 

The Caregiving Conversation with Moms

For aging moms, financial security and safety while living alone become primary concerns. According to WISER (Women for a Secure Retirement), 40 percent of women over age 65 rely solely on Social Security benefits as their only source of retirement income. In addition, the U.S. Administration on Aging reports that 47 percent of women over age 75 live alone at home.

When it comes to having the caregiving conversation about in-home care with mom or dad, knowing what is important to them makes all the difference in the world.