Change is difficult, but none more so when a previously independent and self-sufficient loved one reaches a point where they need to accept help from a caregiver to assist them in day-to-day routines, or if they are forced to move from their home to a retirement or assisted nursing facility.
From our experience in helping families there are often a several common emotional and physical issue at play as to why accepting help is so difficult.
– They believe they are capable and independent despite the evidence to the contrary.
– They find it hard to accept they are no longer able to manage a household properly.
– They cannot let you see them being weak and frail.
– Emotionally they are not ready to make that decision to accept care help or to possibly move.
– They have been capable in the past and your suggestion – which they hear as a demand – makes them feel inferior and / or incompetent.
– They know you are angry and frustrated with them, and so retract into themselves refusing help.
– They manage their angst of getting old by projecting their feelings onto the child – “they are taking over”, “they are bossy” or “they don’t understand my needs” are common feelings they experience.
– They agree with your idea – such as arranging a caregiver to help with small tasks – and then as soon as something is arranged, they refuse the help, making you look incompetent in front of the professionals.
– They can be very manipulative to buy themselves time and therefore play you off against your siblings / step siblings or other family members, causing significant family disagreements and exasperation, so nothing ends up changing.
– As more time passes, you start panicking because you can see the risks increasing daily, further fueling the inertia on the patient to accept help.
As frustrating as it is, our advice is be patient. When the situation has reached this stalemate position, it is best to walk away from the frustration and arguing. It is important to realize that they are adults and that they will have to endure the consequences of their inaction.
We guarantee there will come a time when they will have no option other than to accept your help and advice – it is then that you can offer a solution that will more likely be acted on. This is pre-empting the tipping point before it happens and this involves starting with small changes to help them come to terms with the bigger changes that will happen later. This can include asking friends to help with things such as companionship care, getting meals delivered & online shopping.
However, the tipping point or crisis that will push them over the acceptance line is generally always physical. A fall, an illness such as pneumonia or bronchitis, or a broken bone are the common tipping points. It is worth bearing in mind that if the spouse is the main care provider, they often fall ill at the same time and then someone else will need to look after that other person.
When this happens, have your plan in place so that you can take swift action, whilst still appearing to be giving them a choice in the decision-making process.
In our next blog we will discuss how to plan before the crisis happens.
Written by: Collette Wright, Director, Lily Care