For eldercare services to be tolerable to the elders, you need to explain to the in-home helpers exactly what your parents want help with. It’s not enough to say “hire someone to clean the house.” Does this mean the person cooks meals? Does laundry? Makes beds? Waters the lawn?
It seems simple enough. Your father said he can’t drive anymore so he needs someone to help him with shopping. Unfortunately, it’s easy to misinterpret what’s really needed. Does your father need someone to take a grocery list, go shopping and drop groceries off in the kitchen? Or does he need someone to stop by, pick him up, wait outside while he shops, bring him back, and drop him off? Does he need someone to go in the store and shop with him? For him? Help unpack and put the groceries away?
People make assumptions about what to do and how to help-and don’t get enough detailed information for the assistance to be acceptable to person needing assistance. To avoid these mistakes, and the complaints and cycle of hiring and firing in-home aides, get a complete picture of what your parents want help with. Begin the conversation by focusing first on a single, simple issue like shopping.
Because an apparently simple task like shopping is actually a series of smaller tasks, we have broken each topic into its components. Explore these details with your parents to learn what they really mean when they say “I think I want help shopping for groceries.” The detail may seem excessive to you, but it will make your parents feel understood and allow you to train the helper in acceptable assistance so his/her tenure will exceed a nanosecond.
• Shopping for groceries
Some people enjoy grocery shopping and would miss the activity. They may like the social connection of seeing and talking to other people in the store; they may enjoy slowly wandering down the aisles looking at and feeling the fresh fruits and vegetables, or they may want to keep control over decisions about what is purchased and how much money is spent. For these reasons, grocery shopping can plug into issues of authority and companionship.
Be sure you don’t hire a mismatch, e.g., someone who comes in and does a fabulous job selecting, buying, and organizing the groceries thereby annoying your parents who love to shop and see this as one of the last vestiges of control over daily life. Talk to your parents about the tasks involved in grocery shopping.
Do you want help:
• Deciding how much to spend?
• Making grocery lists?
• Getting to and from the store?
• Selecting the groceries?
• Navigating the aisles?
• Reaching items on very high and/or low shelves?
• Putting the groceries into the cart, onto the checkout counter?
• Carrying the groceries to the car and into the house?
• Unpacking the groceries?
• Doing the whole thing?
Grocery related issues – Do you want:
• Someone to follow along patiently while you shop?
• Someone to chat with while you are shopping?
• Someone to talk to the store clerks for you if you need help finding an item?
• Someone to handle the payment at check out?
• To do shopping on a regular schedule…when?
• To buy only specific brands or specific product sizes?
You may not have realized how much was involved in shopping for somebody else. Busy people just zip in, buy what they need and zip out. But, for people whose world has gotten smaller, these little things matter a great deal. No matter how experienced the provider of eldercare services is, he/she cannot anticipate each client’s preferences and may not ask in sufficient detail to get adequate information. Use these questions to help your parents get clear on exactly what they want help with and how they want to be helped, and to train the helper so he/she can provide elder care services they will accept.