9 Strategies to Help a Parent Who Refuses Care

I see it everyday, elderly people just like me....independent, stubborn and won't accept needed assistance! Although these are great qualities they can also be a burden to those who are trying to help us. A great article featured on Care.Com written by Elizabeth Pope explains how to help a parent who refuses care.

Your mother resists in-home helpers, insisting you can wait on her. Your frail father won't stop driving. Your aunt denies the need for a personal care aide, in spite of her unwashed hair and soiled clothes. Your grandmother refuses to move to an assisted living facility "because it's full of old people."

Sound familiar? Nothing is harder for a family caregiver than an elder loved one who refuses needed help. "This is one of the most common and difficult caregiving challenges that adult kids face," says Donna Cohen, Ph.D. a clinical psychologist and author of "The Loss of Self: A Family Resource for the Care of Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders."

Before pushing your mother too hard to accept help, try to understand her fears about aging, says Cohen: "Many older people see themselves as proud survivors. They think 'I've been through good times and bad, so I'll be fine on my own.' Plus, they don't believe their children understand the physical and emotional toll of age-related declines."

A senior in the early stages of cognitive impairment may be the most difficult to deal with. "Your angry father or agitated mother is aware of this miserable change in their brain they don't quite understand," Cohen adds. Calm reassurance will help them cope with a frightening loss of function.

It's normal for family caregivers to experience rage, helplessness, frustration and guilt while trying to help an intransigent older loved one, says Barbara Kane, co-author of "Coping with Your Difficult Older Parent: A Guide for Stressed-Out Children." "You may revert to the same coping mechanisms you had during adolescent power struggles with your parent -- screaming, yelling or running out of the room," she says. "You need to understand what parental behaviors trigger your emotional response and realize you have other choices." (And Kane advises considering seeing a therapist yourself if necessary to deal with a difficult parent.)

Here are nine strategies to help you overcome the objections of a recalcitrant loved one:

  1. Start Early
    Ideally, families 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 or driver so you could stay home?"

  2. Be Patient
    Ask open-ended questions and give your loved one time to answer, says Care.comSenior Care advisor Mary Stehle, LCSW. "You can say, 'Dad, what's it like to take care of Mom 24 hours a day?'." But be warned: 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.

  3. Probe Deeply
    Ask questions to determine why an elder refuses help -- then you can tailor a solution, says Kane. "Is it about a lack of privacy, fears about the cost of care, losing independence or having a stranger in the house?" says Kane. To build trust, listen with empathy and validate rather than deny your loved one's feelings. (Learn more about starting a conversation about care with your parent)

  4. Offer Options
    If possible, include your parent in interviews or in setting schedules, says Stehle. 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. (Find a senior care aide.)

  5. Recruit Outsiders Early
    "Sometimes it's easier for a parent to talk to a professional rather than a family member," says Cohen. Don't hesitate to ask a social worker, a doctor or nurse, a priest or minister -- even an old poker buddy -- to suggest your parent needs help.

  6. Prioritize Problems
    Make two lists, says Cohen, 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 this huge weight," says Cohen. Writing it down and numbering by priority can relieve a lot of stress.

  7. Use Indirect Approaches
    If your father has dementia, offering less information may be more effective at times, suggests Stehle. "You could let your parent know the aide is someone very helpful who can take your father on walks, fix him meals, and help him 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."

  8. Take it Slow
    Weave a new aide in gradually, says Kane. Start with short home visits or meet for coffee, then bring the aide along to the doctor's a few weeks later. "You leave early on some pretext, letting the aide accompany your parent home."

  9. Accept Your Limits
    As long as seniors are not endangering themselves or others, let them make their own choices, says Cohen. "You can't be at your parent's side all the time. Bad things can happen, and you can't prevent them," she says. "You need to accept limits on what you can accomplish and not feel guilty." It may sound unfeeling, but maybe going a day or two without meals is just the reality check an elder needs to welcome a badly needed helping hand.

If you would like more information on Home Care Solutions of St. Louis and how we can assist you and your elderly parents please contact us, we would love to hear from you!

Happy 4th of July everyone!!

This holiday gives us many amazing reasons to take a day off, enjoy the company of family and friends, bbq, and enjoy the sound and fury of fireworks. This can also be a time to celebrate not only our amazing freedoms, but the senior loved ones in our life.  Especially for seniors, this holiday is a great time to recognize the hardships that many of our aging population have encountered.  If your elderly parents or grandparents were part of the great depression or lived through difficult times, celebrating their current security and independence is more important than ever!

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 Home Care Solutions St. Louis is thrilled to celebrate our nation’s independence and in doing so offers you some tips on how to help older adults be able to enjoy this time honored holiday at your friends and families 4th of July celebration.

·    Plan ahead and talk with the host or hostess about dietary limitations your loved one may have.

·       Consider what kind of seating is best for your loved one and bring a folding chair or one with appropriate support if necessary.

·       Ask if there will be shade where the celebration will be taking place.  Bring comfortable clothes, as some seniors feel cold even when it’s warm outside, and don’t forget the sunscreen.

·       Make sure they have sturdy shoes on to help them navigate uneven surfaces and protect them from all those fast little feel running around with sparklers.

 If your host or hostess can’t accommodate your loved one during their 4th of July party consider hiring a caregiver that can look after them while you attend the party.  Remember it is important for you as the caregiver to recharge and enjoy time with your friends as well.

 As a former military wife, this holiday holds special meaning to myself and my family.  It is my belief that EVERYONE deserves to age with dignity, love and respect.  It is this belief that drives my desire to work with Home Care Solutions St. Louis and to support each individual keeping their independence as we celebrate ours! Have a safe and happy Fourth of July!  Independence Rocks!