As our parents or other loved ones age, independence becomes more important. It is, for many, a more distinct fear than even death (source). The loss of independence renders some seniors hostile to any help, leaving them more vulnerable than ever. If your dad, for example, does not want to receive help, try some of these suggestions:
- Communicate early – When loved ones are still healthy, it is important to discuss aging and care giving. Asking dad questions about what he imagines for his elderly life can lay a foundation for communicating about the need for help later. Take the time to probe the deeper reasons why he does not want help. The information can help you make a plan that calms his fears. Barbara Kane, co-author of Coping with Your Difficult Older Parent suggests finding out, “is it about a lack of privacy, fears about the cost of care, losing independence or having a stranger in the house?”
- Give options – Letting him be a part of choosing times when a home health aide comes will allow him to feel a part of the decision and will support his feelings of remaining independent.
- Shift the focus – Help him to understand that other family members are worried about him. They will be relieved to know that someone is with him when they are not able to be.
- Use resources – Don’t be afraid to utilize others with encouraging him to accept help. Work with his doctors, social workers, pastors or friends. Sometimes a voice that is partially removed from the family situation will receive a different level of acceptance.
- Be patient – Bring an aid worker into the mix slowly, explaining in simple terms that the aid is here to assist with making some meals, going on walks and the like. For example, introduce the aid for a couple of limited visits. Kane suggests introducing the two, having a short outing all together and then you “leave early on some pretext, letting the aide accompany your parent home.”
- Obey your own limits – You can’t be all things to all people. You must take care of yourself. Get help where you can and work on letting some things go. Some things may have to go undone for him to understand that help is needed.
- Help to guide – Guide the reluctant person needing help by shifting the focus toward the family member who is concerned about this person. Help him understand that the family member is worried about him and will be relieved to know that someone is with him when they can’t be there.
Caring for a loved one can be tough and getting extra help is sometimes met with resistance. Working slowly and carefully with an ailing family member can open their hearts to accept the help that you both need.