What if My Aging Relative Resists “Outside” Help? Helping Seniors Accept Help

by Lois Etienne on September 1, 2010

in Caregiver Support

Two of the most important issues for seniors are to remain independent and keep living in their own home. But health and cognitive issues can sometimes make normal day to day living a bit more challenging.

Senior Couple in Washington StateWhile some seniors accept assistance with no problem, many others can be initially resistant to the thought of someone helping them, particularly if the assistance is provided by a non-family member.

In many cases though, assistance is necessary in order to maintain the safety and well-being of the senior, and the peace of mind of the family.

Despite an obvious need for assistance, sometimes the urge to remain independent is strong. According to a survey by Home Instead Senior Care, only one-quarter of seniors actually ask for help directly, so encountering resistance from the other 75% is very normal at first.

If you’re wondering if you might be overreacting or if your loved one’s situation truly calls for a need for additional care, Home Instead Senior Care pulled together a list about the top 10 situations that prompted family members to provide a senior with additional assistance. They are:

1.   An injury/illness/medical condition left the older relative less able to function independently

2.   Advanced age made the older relative less able to function independently

3.   The family noticed that the elderly relative was becoming burdened by their every day tasks

4.   The older person asked for help directly

5.   The family member would feel guilty if they didn’t offer to help out

6.   The older person needed more assistance after the death of a spouse or partner

7.   The older relative would have had to move or leave their home if some assistance was not provided

8.   The family noticed that the parent/relative was losing interest in some of the activities they used to enjoy

9.   Family members noticed that the parent/relative was losing weight

10. Family members noticed that the parent/relative’s appearance was deteriorating

If your senior loved one falls into one or more of those categories and you approach them about getting outside support and they still resist, below are some suggestions from the American Geriatrics Society about how to overcome their reluctance.

  • If a family member is stretched thin with their caregiving duties, sometimes he or she just needs to ask the senior to do things to make his/her life easier – as a favor, which includes having an additional caregiver step in to help out. Use the phrase, “I would feel so much better if I knew that you had more help, someone to do your food shopping, someone to take you to the drug store, someone to be here when I can’t, etc…”
  • Instead of the family caregiver suggesting additional assistance, have a trusted third party suggest to the senior that they hire a professional caregiver. Perhaps his/her doctor, geriatric care manager, best friend, priest, etc. could play this advice-giving role.
  • Involve the senior in the planning for their care. Don’t make unilateral decisions unless the senior really does not have the mental capacity (e.g., dementia/Alzheimer’s) to participate in his/her own lifestyle decisions.
  • Show how a service will make it possible to remain independent longer in his/her own home. Most of these professional caregiving services provide free consultation to assess the senior’s specific situation and make recommendations.
  • If the senior continues to show signs of problems (e.g. burning pots of foods, missing doses of important medication or falling at home) use these events as a time to discuss your safety concerns and suggest additional assistance options.
  • If the senior is still resistant, but is a danger to himself/herself, speak to an elder law specialist about taking steps to become a Guardian to your family member so that you can make decisions for them.

Certainly some of these situations are more difficult than others. But reaching out to others can make your senior’s life easier and lessen your stress.

For more information or to get answers to your questions, please contact your local Home Instead Senior Care office.  We can be reached — anytime day or night – by calling Spokane509.835.5898North King/Snohomish Counties425.670.2292 or South King/Pierce Counties253.943.1603.  You can also email us at loisetienne@homeinsteadnw.com

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