How can I overcome my father's resistance to hiring a home health care aide to bathe my mother?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

How can I overcome my father's resistance to hiring a home health care aide to bathe my mother? My 89 year old father had been bathing my 90 year old mother for the past year or so, but now a sudden deterioration in his own health has made this impossible. But he adamantly refuses all suggestions that we might hire a caregiver.

Expert Answers

Laura Cheney, a physical therapist who specializes in geriatrics, graduated with honors from the University of California at San Francisco in 2000. She loves her job working as the sole physical therapist at a premier life-care facility in San Francisco. She has written articles and lectured extensively on fall prevention and other issues relevant to the aging experience. As a registered yoga teacher, she teaches yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness techniques to seniors -- helping them expand their repertoire for coping with stress, pain, and illness in the later years.

Your father bathing your mom is a very intimate task, shared by your parents. It seems that your father wants control over this kind of care, almost in a protective way. I can see why he’d be hesitant to the idea of a caregiver replacing him. What you can try is starting by having a caregiver assist with other related chores around the house, to build the relationship. Your father needs to feel comfortable and know that he can trust a "stranger" to care for his wife, especially to provide intimate care. Gradually increasing caregiver responsibilities works so much better than suddenly removing your dad from the only role he knows. Another strategy is to break up the bathing task into parts that both your father and the caregiver can share. For instance, the caregiver can assist with setting up the bath, gathering supplies, and transferring your mom into the water. Your father then has a special “helper” who assists him. This is similar to what the Sous Chefs role is to an Executive Chef. Hopefully, with a slow and gradual introduction and with a sharing of tasks, your father will be more open to a caregiver taking over more of the responsibility. As your dad gains trust, he may appreciate not having to take responsibility for this important job.