In-Home Care Challenges: “I Don’t Want a Stranger in the House!”


It can sometimes be hard for someone to accept that they need extra help at home. Wanting to stay independent, feeling nervous about having someone they don’t know caring for them—these are common concerns for aging adults and their families. Here’s how to overcome these and other in-home care challenges.

“My loved one doesn’t want anyone but me to care for them”

“This happens a lot,” Christina Irving, LCSW, Family Consultant at the Family Caregiver Alliance, says. People want to be independent, or they hate the idea of relying on anyone but a spouse or adult child.

In these cases, it’s important for family and friends of the person needing care to really listen to the concerns of the person needing care. The first step to addressing those concerns is acknowledging them, says Irving.

You’ll want to have an open and honest conversation. Support the concerns of the person needing care, but also express how overwhelming it may be for you or other family members to be their only caregiver. Be straightforward and tell the person, “I can’t do all of this on my own anymore” or “I would feel better knowing you have someone here when I can’t be here.”

When it comes to having those difficult talks, Irving adds: “Use allies if you’ve got them.” Turn to doctors, nurses, or social workers who can see that your family needs extra help. If your loved one trusts them, they can help be a voice of reason.

And sometimes it helps to suggest your loved one just try out bringing in help for a short period of time, Irving says. It can be reassuring to your loved one to know that if it’s not working you can make changes or adjustments.

“I don’t feel comfortable with a stranger in the house!”

The idea of someone you don’t yet know coming into your home and helping you or a loved one with some very personal tasks likely will feel uncomfortable and weird at first. That’s why you’ll want to put time and energy into getting good recommendations, asking the right questions, and interviewing and getting to know the individual caregiver. Doing adequate background checks, screening, and following up with references can also help alleviate these worries.

“Someone who is the right fit (in terms of personality) and has the right level of training is often someone who can slide right into someone’s home in a very comfortable and supportive way,” Irving says.

Additionally, if you’re the family or friend of the individual needing help, be around for the first day or few visits from the care worker. That can help everyone to feel more comfortable and reassured of the process, Irving says.

“What if they steal from me?”

If you’re concerned about belongings being stolen, lock up valuables or take them out of the house to give you an extra level of reassurance. Consider making random visits during the care provider’s shift to check in, Irving suggests.

Be sure to keep track of any cash, credit cards, and checks in the house. If the care worker is buying groceries or doing other shopping, track expenses. And if using a home care agency, report any problems right away.

Most importantly, don’t rush into the process, Irving adds. If you know your own or a loved one’s health is deteriorating and you’re getting to a point where you’re going to need help, start researching it early, she says. Getting reliable recommendations and finding an individual worker you trust and respect is important.

“If you get to a point where you absolutely need a home worker today, you may feel like you’re stuck with the first person you get,” Irving says. And that’s not a good position to be in.

Research in-home care agencies and providers with our service finder:

“I feel like a failure because I need help taking care of my loved one”

If you are the primary caregiver of a spouse, parent, or other family member or friend in need, you likely have a very close relationship with that person. It can be hard to accept that they need more help than you can provide.

It’s common to feel some regret in needing to ask for help when it comes to caring for someone we love, says Irving. But many people in those roles also have jobs of their own, children, spouses, and other responsibilities to manage. Taking on too much can have consequences for your mental and physical health.

You’re still a person, not just a caregiver. You need time to do the things that keep you healthy and well, like exercise, running errands, seeing your doctor and health care providers, spending time with your friends, and getting restful sleep.

“Sometimes the issue of bringing in in-home care is not because the family is incapable of providing it, but it’s just getting beyond their capacity without affecting the family members’ own health and wellbeing,” says Irving.

Support groups, counseling, or talking through your feelings with a spiritual leader or a trusted friend can help you accept the changes you and your loved one are facing. You can find a caregiver support group near you with our service finder:

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