Talking about care can be difficult. Faced with a perceived loss of independence, some older people can be resistant to getting extra help, or worry that it is a slippery slope to needing full-time care. Some elderly people just don’t want to entertain the idea that they might need extra help at all.

This guide has tips for helping to introduce a conversation about care and addressing common challenges that arise.

When to start talking about care

It’s better to broach the subject of care early, when the person is in a relatively good state of health and you both feel relaxed. This helps to relieve the pressure on both sides, gives time for discussing options and means decisions don’t have to be rushed.

Remember, care packages can start very small – it can be as simple as coming around and having a cup of tea and a chat, helping with the shopping, or helping to tidy up. Getting used to having help can prevent unsafe situations in the future when the person’s needs progress, and can end up keeping them in their home for longer in the long run.

Be alert for opportunities to discuss their future plans or ideal set-up. For instance, present them with questions like “ Would you be OK with a cleaner coming by twice a week for a few hours?” This is likely to act as a useful gauge as to what they would or wouldn’t be comfortable with.

How to discuss care needs

Pinpoint key issues

If the person is really resistant to the idea of care, can you identify the underlying reason for this?  If they don’t want a carer in their house, are there technological devices that could help provide reassurance for the moment? Personal alarms, memory aids, smart home devices and other assistive technology can help people stay independent for longer and give peace of mind to family.

If money is a concern, arrange for a care needs assessment from your local council. The results will include recommendations about whether care is needed. If it is, a further financial assessment will be arranged for you to see if the local council will pay towards the care.

More information about booking a care needs assessment.

Involve a third party 

Sometimes people find it hard to talk about their personal needs with family members and friends. Consider asking a more removed third person, such as a trusted doctor, nurse, social worker or community member, to bring up the possibility of potentially needing care. If you know someone who is already receiving care, sharing their first-hand knowledge of the situation may also help.

A third party bringing up the topic may make the subject easier for them to talk about in a more objective way.

Be patient

You may have been mulling over the fact that care is needed for a while now, but the conversation might come as a surprise to the other person. They might need several days or even weeks to think the situation over so don’t be surprised if you don’t some to an immediate agreement.

Make it clear that you are open to questions in the meantime, and help them feel in control by not pressing the matter more than you have to at this stage.

Thinking about care can be a worrying or even upsetting situation for some older people, so empathy and patience are key.

Talk about the different care options together

As much as possible, get the other person involved in making decisions about their care. Take the time to really listen to them and their preferences.

For instance, get them to participate in meeting the carer beforehand and draw up a list of questions they would like to ask them as part of the interview process, and choosing the times they would prefer a carer to visit.

Respect your own limits

If you have been providing informal care and support, there can come a time when you have to accept your own individual limitations in terms of caring for someone else, even if they are resistant to the idea.

Difficult as it may be, sometimes you will have to say no, make other arrangements or call on another family member to help. Find out more about how to look after yourself if you are caring for someone else.

Let Care Sourcer help you

The first step after talking about care can be browsing the care providers in your area and looking at the services that they can offer.

Just enter your postcode for a searchable directory of local care providers. Every care provider on Care Sourcer is registered with their local regulatory body.

You’ll see their inspection rating, along with price, location, photos and information about the agency that can help you with your decision.

If you need care urgently, our team of care experts are also available by telephone on freephone 0800 048 8618 to guide you through the process.