By Denise Pott, LCSW – Assistance Home Care
Unfortunately, many older adults refuse to have help in the home, even when it is desperately needed. Some seniors are vehement or downright belligerent in their refusal. Often they fear a loss of independence, and most are concerned about the cost of care. Their refusal of assistance can cause worry and tension among family members who are concerned for the safety and health of their loved ones, especially when they live at some distance and cannot visit frequently to check in.
Here are ten strategies to help you overcome the objections of recalcitrant parents:
• Start Early
Ideally, families will have relaxed conversations about caregiving long before a health crisis. Look for opportunities to ask questions like, “Mom, where do you see yourself getting older?” or “How would you feel about hiring a housekeeper so you could stay at home?” It may help to be prepared with some cost estimates.
• Probe Deeply
Ask questions to determine why an elder refuses help — then you can tailor a solution. Is it about a lack of privacy, fears about the cost of care, losing independence or having a stranger in the house? To build trust, listen with empathy and validate rather than deny your loved one’s feelings.
• Recruit Outsiders
Sometimes it’s easier for a parent to talk to a professional rather than a family member. Seek out someone that is respected and influential. Don’t hesitate to ask a social worker, a doctor or nurse, a priest or minister to suggest your parent might benefit from some assistance.
• Prioritize Problems
Make two lists, one for your loved one’s problems and another for the steps you’ve already taken — and where to get more help. If you don’t categorize your efforts, caregiving becomes a huge weight. Writing it down and numbering by priority can relieve a lot of stress.
• Offer Options
If possible, include your parent in interviews or in setting schedules. Let them choose certain days of the week or times of day to have a home health aide come. Emphasize an aide will be a companion for walks, concerts, museum visits and other favorite activities.
• Use Indirect Approaches
If your parent has dementia, offering less information may be more effective. You could let your parent know the aide is someone very helpful who can take them on walks, fix him meals, and help throughout the day. You don’t need to explain every aspect of care the aide will provide before the relationship has been formed. This may make your loved one feel less threatened.
• Be Patient
Ask open-ended questions and give your loved one time to answer. You can say, ‘Dad, what’s it like to take care of Mom 24 hours a day?’ These conversations may be repetitive and tangential, veering off-topic. It may take several talks to discover the reason your mother, a meticulous housekeeper, has fired five aides in a row is simply that they neglected to vacuum under the dining room table.
• Take it Slow
Weave a new aide in gradually. Start with short home visits or meet for coffee, then bring the aide along to the doctor’s a few weeks later.
• Let Your Parents Know How You Feel
Let your parents know that you are concerned. If your parents protest that they don’t need help, you might tell then that you are the one who needs them to have some help because you are so worried that it is having a negative effect on your life. Seniors often do things for others that they won’t do for themselves.
• Accept Your Own Limitations
As long as seniors are not endangering themselves or others, let them make their own choices. You can’t be at your parent’s side all the time. Bad things can happen, and you can’t prevent them, You must accept that there are limits to what you can accomplish; do not feel guilty!
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