Caretaking is exhausting — physically, emotionally and spiritually. If you’re the primary caretaker for a parent, there is a wide variety of reasons why you might eventually need a respite stay. That’s especially true if you are their sole caretaker. But no matter the reason, it can be difficult to begin that conversation and get your parent onboard. So, before you do, make sure you’re prepared to have it, and check out these tips for talking to your parent about a respite stay.
A similar approach can work, whether you need a short break from caretaking for your own emotional wellbeing, you’re ill, plan to go on a vacation or even if you want to use it as a test for a long-term move to an assisted living community.
1. Don’t wait. Have the conversation now.
If you wait until you desperately need to bring your parent to an assisted living community for a respite stay, it’s already a bit late to be having the conversation. In an ideal world, you want to start that dialogue while you’re both doing well. Talking about respite before you need to take advantage of it is important because as your parent gets older, it’s harder for them to accept changes. Explain why caregivers sometimes need support, and plant the idea that the day may come when you will, too. This type of advanced planning also gives you greater options when it comes to selecting a community — and gives your parent a chance to tell you what they may or may not want in a respite stay.
2. Give them time to adjust to the idea.
Regardless of whether you’ve had that conversation with them well in advance, they’ll still need time to adjust when a respite stay nears. A hypothetical conversation is one thing, and reality can be quite another. Once you decide the time has come, avoid springing the idea on them at the last minute; when you start planning a vacation, for example, start talking about it with them right away. Chances are, it’s taken you a while to work up to this point, and they deserve the same courtesy and respect. No one likes surprises when it comes to their home. Give them time wrap their head around what this means for them and for you.
3. Be honest.
Many adult children feel guilty about taking even a short break from caretaking, which is why they sometimes invent ways to rationalize the decision. But trust is important in your relationship with your parent. Don’t throw that away because you don’t feel you’ve earned the break — you have. Tell them why this time away is important — for both of you. Explain why it makes sense, and remember that it’s OK to admit you are overwhelmed or burnt out. Your relationship as their child, and their caretaker, can only improve as a result.
4. Give them a tour.
If you’ve had the conversation with your parent ahead of time, ask them what type of environment they’d prefer. Find out if there are any deal-breakers for them. Then, narrow down the options and take them on a tour of the top-choice communities. Try to focus on aspects of the community that you know they’ll enjoy — or aspects of living at home that you know they won’t miss! Don’t assume this is a negative — they may enjoy a break from their daily routines as well, and may enjoy having better equipped environment that caters to their needs and wants. If possible, give them the opportunity to give you feedback on the places you’re considering.
Even if the conversation goes smoothly, it may be difficult for both of you at first, and that’s completely normal. But with time, you’ll both adjust to the change, and likely be healthier for it.