What If My Parent Won’t Accept Help

Generations matter and seniors who are 65+ can sometimes have a higher sense of independence – after all, they have lived through wartime and possibly the Great Depression. Lifetime struggles can create a high sense of independence, and not wanting to rely on another person for help.

But there comes a time when getting help is the practical approach, even if it’s not what they want. It is after all in everyone’s best interest that they are safe, and have the care needed in case of emergency.

Below are 8 tips for approaching the conversation.

1. Imagine yourself in their shoes. The frustration and fear you’re feeling is probably identical to what a loved one feels. Imagine if someone told you to leave your home or have a stranger come in to check in on you. You would be scared at the thought of losing control of your life too and dig your heels in and deny and resist help.

2. You may need an unbiased opinion from a professional. Sometimes, including geriatric care managers, social workers, psychologists, physicians or other professionals can help to open up the lines of communication and mediate the discussions between family members.

3. Don’t rush into it. It takes time for people to accept their limitations and make changes in their lives. If a doctor say to you, “you have to start losing weight” – do you leave the doctor’s office and immediately start a diet and lose the weight? Probably not. People need time to process changes in their lives and make adjustments in increments. Be sensitive to that.

4. If possible, let your loved one decide that the time is right. All people do better with change when it was a change they initiated, not one that was forced upon them. Try to guide the conversations, but allow your loved one to determine when the time is right.

5. Ask them to make small changes first. Whenever possible, start with look at options together. You may need to do some initial research on the options available for a move, but do not make decisions autonomously. Include your loved one in the decision making process at every level possible.

6. Understand that a crisis may need to occur. Unfortunately, it is often a crisis, like a major fall or hospitalization that facilitates a change. It is not ideal, but it is often the reality. As a compromise a loved one may agree to wear a bracelet or simple alert system in case of emergency.

7. Process your own frustration. Look at your frustration at a deeper, emotional level. Most likely your frustration and anger stems from the fear you feel. Understanding and accepting this will help you to communicate differently with your loved one.

8. Don’t use the “Power of Attorney” card, yet. Bringing up a position of power is not going to decrease defenses and open up the lines of communication. In fact, it will do the opposite. But you might also want to look into your states’ laws in case you run out of options.

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