8 Strategies to Assist a Parent Who Refuses Care

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Being in a position of caring for aging parents can be difficult for many reasons. It’s difficult to look at someone who you have viewed as invincible since childhood, now showing signs of regress. As an avid comic book reader I parallel the idea of Superman no longer having superhuman strength and losing the ability to fly.

While your parents probably never flew around the earth fast enough to turn back time, they played a super hero role in your life. In my own life, my parents made a lot of sacrifices to make the lives of my sister and two brothers better than theirs. As a child I remember thinking that my parents were invincible – just like Superman without the cape.

Watching parents age can be hard to cope. Multiply the stress and frustration when the aging parent(s) refuse care. Before you start conversations with your parents about care look at life from their situation. Many of you reading this article are working with parents from the Silent Generation – people who were born most notably during the Great Depression or World War II.

Members of the Silent Generation have been generally found to be proud, ambitious, often seeking achievement, power and status. As a child coping with the environment of the Great Depression, this generation has learned to work hard and overcome obstacles. Many older adults see themselves as proud survivors. The idea of needing additional care is a foreign concept to them, and one that is generally rejected due to their independence throughout their lifetime.

Your mother resists home care assistance, insisting that you can wait on her. She denies the need for additional assistance at home in spite of her unwashed hair and soiled clothing. Your aging father refuses to give up the keys to the car. Your aunt refuses to move to an assisted living facility because “it’s full of old people.”

Does this sound familiar? When an elder loved one refuses care, this can be a hard time for a family caregiver. Paying for a child’s college tuition and a parent refusing care are two of the most difficult challenges adult children face.

Here are 8 strategies to help you and your family overcome the objections of a reluctant loved one:

  1. Start conversations early. It is wise to start conversations with elder family members before a health crisis arises. Look for opportunities to ask questions like, “Mom, where do you see yourself as you are getting older?” or “How do you feel about bringing in a home care companion company to help you with light house keeping and running errands?” The earlier you start the conversation, the easier it will be for your elder parent to discuss.
  2. Use probing questions. Ask open-ended questions that allow for answers that require more than a yes or no response. Open-ended questions allow for responses that may give you more insight into their reluctance for care. Ask questions to determine why your loved one refuses help. Be sure to listen with empathy and validate what your loved one is saying.
  3. Integrate 3rd party assistance early. Recognize that you may be a master in many areas of your life, but some work is better suited for professionals. A home care company is an advocate for the senior community and better understands the full scope of needs to keep a loved one active and independent. Sometimes it’s easier for a parent to talk to a professional rather than a family member. Choosing a home care company can be easier than you think.
  4. Actively include parents in decision-making. If possible, include your parent in interviews with home care companies or in setting care schedules. Let them have a say in what days of the week or times of the day they would prefer to have extra assistance. Including the elder adult in the conversation gives them a sense of responsibility.
  5. Emphasize the upside. Be sure to talk with enthusiasm about the benefits of having additional care around the home. Emphasize how a professional caregiver can be a companion for social events and favorite activities. I used to tell my grandmother that I was jealous of her. I wished I had someone in my home that would cook and clean for me in my home.
  6. Use indirect approaches. If your mother has dementia, offering less information may be more effective at times. You don’t need to explain every detail of care. Once again reinforce the upside by mentioning that a professional caregiver is here to make his life easier and more enjoyable.
  7. Take it slow. Change can be difficult for this generation. Introduce a new caregiver in slow stages. While longer allotted hours of care may be needed, start by introducing short visits. Meeting for a joined activity or accompanying to a doctors visit is a great slow start to introduce a caregiver.
  8. Be patient. In my experience, it takes 6-7 visits for a elder parent to become comfortable with the presence of a caregiver. Highlight the benefits of how the caregiver has helped. I always told my grandmother that since the caregiver was introduced, her home was always clean.

For more information about adults with disabilities or senior-related topics give us a call at 941.219.3139.

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