10 Strategies to Help the Elderly Overcome Resistance to Home Care
One of the most challenging issues you are likely to face when caring for an aging loved one is resistance to additional help, especially when they get to the point of needing in-home care. At the end of one of Dad’s periods in rehab, we were told he couldn’t go home without 24/7 care. He wanted to go home, so he didn’t object, but his wife kept it to herself that she was adamantly opposed to having someone else in the house until after Dad was home. Then she made it perfectly clear how she felt by not letting the caregiver come upstairs to help. Needless to say, we had to make other arrangements.
How do you get help for a loved one who doesn’t want it or strongly resists it? At first, it might not be an absolute necessity, but it could progress to the point where there is no other alternative. Dad’s situation came up suddenly. Hopefully, you will have more time to consider some of these strategies and gradually ease your loved one into a situation that is helpful to all concerned.
- Communication: If you suspect that your loved one will be resistant to care — whether from family or a service — you might be hesitant to bring up the topic. Start communicating with her about her need for care while you still have time to discuss it.
- Try to understand the source of the resistance. Some people value independence, some are scared, and some see accepting help as a sign of weakness or loss of privacy.
- Ask about your loved one’s preferences. Even though you might not be able to fulfill all of her wishes, it’s important to take them into consideration.
- Describe care in a positive way. Refer to respite care as an activity she likes. Talk about a home care provider as a friend.
- Timing: If possible, schedule a time to talk in advance. Let mom know that the topic will revolve around getting more help. Choose a time when you can both be relaxed. Avoid being in a rush.
- Focus: Everyone wants to feel useful. Focus on why you need help. Help your mom see how she will be helping you. Consider asking her to accept care to make your life a little easier. She might find it easier to accept outside care if she thinks she is doing it to help someone she loves.
- “We” Solutions: Involve your loved one in the solution process as much as possible. Use “We” when you are negotiating. For example, “How can we manage?” vs. “What am I going to do about you?” No one wants to be labeled a problem. We all want to feel we are part of a solution.
- First Things First:Bring up immediate safety or care issues first, and let the rest go. If your mom agrees to home modifications that will help with her mobility but does not want to talk about in-home care, drop it for now. Tell her she’s made a wise choice, and be prepared to bring up the idea of in-home care later.
- Independence: Explain how in-home care might prolong your mom’s independence.Knowing that accepting some assistance might help her remain in her home for as long as possible might be a mind changer.
- Trial Periods: Don’t ask your mom to make a final decision about the kind of care she receives right away. Ask her to try receiving care for a short period of time. A trial run gives a hesitant loved one a chance to experience the benefits of assistance. If the trial period is a positive experience, the help can continue uninterrupted.
- Professionals:Professionals that are respected by your elderly loved one can have a strong role in providing support and perspective. Bring in your family doctors, clergy or other professionals to provide validation, support and encouragement. If your mom is putting herself in danger by resisting care, seek the counsel of an elder-care lawyer to ensure safety and legal boundaries are being met. (Learn more about Elder Abuse in our next blog.)
- Coping: Accepting care might mean relinquishing privacy and adjusting to new routines. Your loved one might feel frightened and vulnerable or angry. Help her cope with the loss of independence. Explain that this isn’t a personal failing. Help her to stay active, maintain relationships with caring friends and family, and develop new physically appropriate interests.
- Memory Loss: Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease might make it difficult for your loved to understand why she needs help. Keep in mind that the above strategies might not be appropriate when dealing with a loved one who has dementia.
Resistance to care is a challenge that many caregivers face. Spending the time to involve your elderly loved one in the decisions and solutions and emphasizing the benefits of care will improve the care experience, your loved one’s sense of independence and quality of life, and your peace of mind.
by Marti Lythgoe, DTN Home Care Writer/Editor