Tackling Hospital-To-Home Conversations with Your Elder Loved One

Mother and daughter drinking coffee at home

Do you have a loved one who will soon be needing in-home care, especially after major surgery? Then you will soon know the feeling of having your routines disrupted almost beyond recognition. Often, the most difficult part of this is having to discuss, with the household's newest member, how things will be run. This seemingly arduous task can be made easier by what you do and say in the time leading up to the introduction of your loved one into the household.

Considering the Bigger Picture

If you are married and/or have children, there are others, besides your loved one, to take into consideration. This means you will need to strike a balance between giving and taking, which usually requires certain guidelines to be set in place. However, we are naturally reticent to start laying down rules of engagement to a loved one who has just suffered the trauma of major surgery or a sudden decline in health and vitality.

That said, the approach you take in having these conversations will smooth the way further down the line. Firstly, it is paramount that the elder loved one understand their presence in the home is a source of joy. At no time should they be allowed to feel like a burden or they are in the way.

Prepare Yourself First

The first step is to get your own mind around the adjustment that lies ahead. Most likely you and your family, where applicable, are so well entrenched in your daily routine that you go about most of it without even thinking. So, before making new plans, it may be a good idea to map out–in writing or by use of a diagram–what your current routines are. There are also online time-management programs for families that can assist very well in this.

This will open you to a greater understanding of how an added household member and their needs can be incorporated. It will also allow for the whole family to stay up-to-date with plans, or even changes in plans, and facilitate a smoother transition. Also, see where you can assign menial tasks to your loved one which will not place undue strain on them. We all like to feel we are useful and have a purpose, and this is especially true for the elderly and infirm.

If your loved one will be spending significant time alone, consider a companion program or some in-home help, especially during the rehabilitation period when they might require additional assistance or company.   

Old man sitting on the sofa with his lovely dog and book

Take Stock of New Demands

Once you have ascertained the status quo, it is time to assess what exactly the new demands on the household will be. This is where educating yourself and your family on the care needed for your loved one's specific condition will be most wise. Making sure you are on the same page as the doctors responsible for medical treatment is the first order of business.

Additionally, you can make it a family project to surf the web and get an overall understanding of your loved one's condition. Doing this will also serve to include everyone, foster a spirit of teamwork and involvement and make the load easier for all to bear. Speaking with your loved one about the knowledge you have gained will also make them feel you are not only "qualified" to take care of them, but that you are walking the journey with them.

Included but Not in Control

Ensure you include your loved one in the planning conversations, making them feel part of the household even before they move in. When infirmity strikes, especially in previously able-bodied and active people, they can feel like they are losing their grip on life.

This may make them grasp at anything that will give them some sense of control. They may even second guess you on some counts. The key is to remain calm and steadfast in your purpose, which is to include them in your life and your home and let them know they are loved.

Including them in planning their future cohabitation with you may contribute to alleviating their sense of helplessness, but make sure you affirm, in a loving way, that you have everything covered and they do not need to take over anything.

Saying things like, "I hear your concern, and I think we can work around the challenge like this..." or, "I understand what you mean, that is why I thought we could..." will serve to bestow on them the honor they deserve, as well as affirming that you are managing your household. They may additionally be reassured if you mention you are willing to call in the services of organizations that assist with in-home care, should the need arise.

happy smiling woman with daughter and senior mother sitting on park bench

Family Conversation

Finally, having a family meeting, either on the last day at the hospital or the first day at home, will make sure that everyone is on the same page. Having children and adults express their delight at looking forward to sharing their home with an elder loved one will further help to get everyone in the right mindset.

It is a good idea to use positive language full of anticipation to draw all concerned into the challenge with positive energy. For instance, "I'm so glad you'll be with us. Now you and your granddaughter can crochet together anytime you like!" You have the power to make such a move feel like a necessity to be endured or an adventure to be enjoyed.

Stacey Warren