caregiver-companionFor the past year or so, you’ve noticed your loved one slipping, but to avoid making waves, you’ve tried to keep your concerns to yourself.  Now, you’re seeing obvious signs that the problem is worsening.

The kitchen that used to be spotless is piled high with dirty dishes.  There’s very little food in the refrigerator, and the lawn that has always been kept perfectly manicured is popping with weeds. Perhaps most disconcerting is that they appear to be losing weight and their hygiene is suffering.

You try to gently suggest that perhaps they need some help and are met with intense resistance. The answer, plain and simply, is “NO!!!!”

Be Realistic

If this sounds familiar, one way to ease your stress is by lowering expectations. Someone who has spent a lifetime being independent is not likely to acquiesce the minute you suggest hiring a helper. They may have feelings of denial and fear and will likely see this as the beginning of the end of their independence. Loss of privacy may cause anxiety, or they may just be uncomfortable with the idea of a stranger in their home. Simply acknowledging these feelings can do wonders for easing their worries.

One Step at a Time

Here are some tips for introducing assistance very gradually so as to allay their fears and reduce push back.

  • When hiring a household helper/companion, make sure the person is also trained in personal care services and can assume those duties as time progresses. Be sure to explain this planned progression to potential candidates during the interview process so there are no surprises.
  • Initially, introduce the new caregiver as a housekeeper. Your loved one will probably be more apt to accept help with household chores than personal care. Let them assist with defining the helper’s responsibilities. As a relationship and sense of trust develop, they may begin to ask for assistance with other things.
  • Present the help as a gift rather than as something that is needed. On the next special occasion, tuck a “gift certificate” for cleaning services inside a card and let them know you thought it was something they would enjoy.
  • After a few weeks, ask the helper to call your loved one before arriving to ask if they need anything at the store. When offered as a courteous, helpful gesture, it will likely be appreciated.  As the relationship continues to develop, have her suggest bringing ingredients for a simple meal they can prepare and enjoy together.
  • Tug at the heartstrings a bit – tell your loved one you would rather spend your time together doing enjoyable things than catching up on household chores. Remind them that you have a job and family as well, so bringing in some assistance for them would actually ease your mind.
  • If necessary, solicit help from a geriatric care manager or physician. Trained to objectively assess these situations, these professionals can often present recommendations in a non-threatening manner that your loved one will be comfortable with.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

However you decide to proceed, begin the conversations early and don’t rush things. A gradual introduction is best, so start with short visits and let the relationship develop naturally.  You may even want to introduce the helper as a friend who is in need of part time work; frame it as a win-win. Not only will you be helping a friend by hiring her, but doing so will enable you and your loved one to spend more quality time together.

Have you been through this or are you struggling with a similar situation now? Leave us a comment and share your experience. 



  1. Sara Dunsford

    I am 75, have a business, work full time outside the home and need help with vaccuming, kitchen and bathroom floors, changing bed linens and finding someplace to get decent meals to bring home for dinner. Trouble is – I can’t afford any of this. Getting in and out of the tub for a shower is a major operation but I don’t have a walk in shower. Getting laundry in and out of the washer and dryer is a big chore, too. Walking is very difficult but I just have to deal with it.

    I had wonderful parents that I took care of – they were a real joy and I miss their companionship. I don’t regret one moment that I spent helping them.

  2. lori

    wow! what timing!!! my 2 sisters and I have bounced around this senerio! just past month! yes.. gradual is key! haven’t gone there yet… but Now! understand how… when need be… both parents independent.. health issues… but maintain… but don’t want mom wearing out faster… they still have car.. and drive… I just spent 10 full days with them… not seeing them in 11 yrs… they do pretty good yet! … but Id love to have this help worked into… as time goes on… they do need help with front yard.. done in gardens… needs weeded and trimmed up.. thanks again!!! perfect timing! blessings for all going thru / dealing with this touchy topic!

    • Ann Napoletan

      Lori, I’m so glad you found this helpful! Best of luck to you going forward! ~Ann

  3. jackie

    gosh, i’m in my 50’s, & could use help with the weeding ! i work full time, and don’t have much energy at the end of the workday for much else besides my pets, plus i hate bugs, which are out when i get home- so chores wait until the weekend, which goes by in a blink because i am so busy doing, doing, doing- i look forward to retirement- when i worked part time, my garden was quite a bit prettier- hope my health holds out, so i can pace myself with cleaning, weeding, organizing, socializing, etc. i am childless by choice, so i might have to look into senior communal living.

    • Ann Napoletan

      Jackie – the communal senior living model is very interesting and my bet is that it will continue to grow in popularity! Thanks for commenting.

  4. Epoch Elder Care

    Great article Elderlies are a bit resistant when at-home care givers are introduced to them. Great tips to make things easier for us!!

  5. Ves

    This is wonderful and well done. I love how you have said to develop these relationships. “A gradual introduction is best, so start with short visits and let the relationship develop naturally.” This makes so much sense and is a blessing to help others.

    • Ann Napoletan

      Thanks for your feedback, Ves! It’s a challenging situation even under the best of circumstances. Hopefully some of these tips will help to ease the tension. ~Ann

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