If you’re worried about an elderly loved one, your first instinct is probably to step in and help. But what happens when the person you care about doesn’t want your help? How do you contribute to the safety, health, and happiness of a family member who sees your efforts as invasive? It’s tough to balance, but often, finding out why your aging loved one might be resisting your help can go a long way.
Perhaps your mom doesn’t get around as easily as she used to, and you wish she’d accept assistance from a cleaning service. Maybe your dad is having more and more trouble caring for himself, and you’d like him to consider assisted living. Whether the change you believe your loved one needs is big or small, you may have to deal with some major resistance.
It goes without saying that you want what’s best for your aging family member. But you also know the importance of being respectful. In this post, we’ll tell you how to provide truly considerate support.
Why might they be resisting assistance?
Listen & learn
Offering an elderly loved one assistance isn’t easy. First you must assess the situation. Then you have to do your research. When you come up with a workable plan, it may feel like the perfect solution. Of course, the person at the center of your plan might feel differently.
It can be frustrating when someone you care about rejects your help. And it’s often tempting to see the person who’s turning you down as selfish. In these situations, it’s important to practice empathy. Try to put yourself in the shoes of your elderly loved one. Start by listening.
By actively listening to your family member, you send the message that her opinion matters. She may open up and help you better understand what’s at the root of her refusal. Is she worried about losing her independence? Perhaps she’s anxious about changing her routine.
Only by understanding someone’s fears or concerns can you address them. Try asking questions—and listening without jumping to conclusions.
According to one study, 77% of adult children believe their parents are stubborn. This statistic isn’t hard to believe. Consider the time, care, and (in some cases) financial assistance that many daughters and sons are willing to provide. When aging parents reject these forms of help, it can seem like they’re simply being obstinate.
If you’re feeling this way, it may be because you’re overwhelmed. When you’re focusing on finding a solution to a problem, seeing another person’s point of view isn’t always easy. An outside perspective might be just what you need.
Help is available. Geriatric care consultants, counsellors, financial planners—the right professionals will have the experience and knowledge to provide you with greater clarity. To find someone with the right expertise, it pays to do your research. But it might also make sense to reach out to existing members of your loved one’s circle of care.
Consider this. The nurse, personal support worker, or physician who provides care for your elderly father may have helpful insight into his frame of mind—and just how much additional support he actually needs.
Use the technology at your disposal
Accessing human resources—in the form of circle of care members and other relevant professionals—is often key to providing truly helpful support. If you have permission from your elderly loved one, staying in the loop may be simple.
By providing a place where you, your family member, and everyone involved in his care can easily connect, technology can help you get important answers.
The right mobile app could connect you to your mother’s care coordinator, allowing you to ask what to expect from her upcoming treatments. Armed with the right information, you would be less likely to offer inappropriate help or suggest a disruptive and unnecessary change.
Of course, your own perceptions also matter. In some ways, you may be the best person to judge whether your relative is having difficulty coping.
Communication technology enables you to check in on your loved one face-to-face. Through video calls, you can actually see how your parent is doing, even when you can’t be there in person. These calls can also provide a lot of joy for older people who live alone. Look for an intuitive app that will work for users of all skill levels and abilities.
Be trustworthy & transparent
For many older adults, moving or making a major lifestyle change can feel like a loss of independence. It’s not hard to understand why many seniors become frustrated when their well-meaning children step in.
The fact is, dealing with an elderly loved one isn’t like dealing with a child. It’s important to ensure that you pay your family member the upmost respect. If she or he has the capacity to make personal decisions, these choices must ultimately be respected.
Be honest and direct with the person you’re trying to help. Never lie or hide information, even temporarily. Telling your elderly loved one how you feel about her current situation (whether it’s worried, anxious, or fearful) may motivate her to consider your suggestions. That said, manipulative behaviour won’t move things in a positive direction—and it just might harm your relationship with someone you care about.
Feature image courtesy of Kindness Art