Overcoming Senior Resistance

Overcoming Senior Resistance

When Seniors Say “No” to Help
Caregiver Support Series Helps Families Overcome Resistance

A family caregiver’s job, by definition, is already a difficult one.  Time away from work and family, and the worry of caring for a senior adult all can take a toll.  But when you consider that many seniors often resist help, that job becomes overwhelming for so many caregivers in our own area.

A study of family caregivers conducted for the Home Instead Senior Care® network revealed that more than half of the respondents (51 percent) said that their aging relative was very resistant to care.  These seniors often object to help whether it’s from a family caregiver or a professional who tries to come into their homes to assist.

This is a real problem for family caregivers worried about the safety of a senior loved one who might be forgetting food on the stove or neglecting to take their medications.  Some seniors are so resistant I’ve heard stories of them calling the police when their family members have arranged for a caregiver to visit their home.  But experts say that keeping fiercely independent seniors safe at home isn’t a lost cause.

There are solutions for them and their family caregivers.  That’s why the Home Instead Senior Care network is launching Caring for Your Parents: Education for the Family CaregiverSM.

This family caregiver support series addresses senior resistance to care and features a variety of topics.  Among those issues are choosing an in-home care provider, the signs of aging, long distance caregiving and communicating with aging parents.

Materials and videos are available at www.caregiverstress.com so please check that out.  These materials offer a great referral resource for senior care professionals as well who work with older adults and their families each day.

Resistance is at the root of many senior-care issues.  Why?  If seniors admit they need help, they feel their independence is in question.  Seniors believe that once they acknowledge they need help, they’ll lose control of their affairs.  They are trying to maintain dignity.  Unless they feel they can trust someone, they resist change.  I also believe it’s the fear that life as they’ve known it will be taken away from them.”

Sometimes seniors only want help from a son or daughter, which can put undue pressure on that family caregiver.

Most caregivers can go into “crisis mode” to rally around a loved one in the short-term, but you can’t be totally immersed in a crisis mode long-term without your own family, work and health suffering.  That’s according to family caregiving consultant Dr. Amy D’Aprix and author of From Surviving to Thriving: Transforming Your Caregiving Experience.

The strain can take a particular toll on working family caregivers.  The Home Instead Senior Care study revealed that 42 percent of caregivers spend more than 30 hours a week caregiving.  That’s the equivalent of a second full-time job.

In the study, family caregivers also stated that their own personal health and job were affected by caregiving.  Fifty-eight percent say they are getting ill more frequently and that caregiving is taking a toll on their jobs.  Furthermore, 81 percent say their loved ones’ needs are becoming overwhelming compared with 73 percent who thought so just four years earlier.

And that’s what makes countering that resistance to assistance so important.  Many times family caregivers make assumptions but never ask:  Mom, I’ve noticed that every time I bring up having someone come in to assist, you don’t want help.  Why is that?  Sometimes the parent doesn’t realize they’re being resistant.

Also, reassuring a senior loved one that you have the same goal in mind will help.  Start with:  My goal for you is to be independent, too.  You know I can’t be here all the time.  A little extra assistance will help you stay at home.

Following are strategies from Home Instead Senior Care and Dr. D’Aprix to help family caregivers turn resistance into assistance.

  1. Understand where the resistance is coming from.  Ask a senior parent or loved one why he or she is resisting.
  2. Explain your goals. Remind an older adult that you both want the same thing.  Explain that a little extra help can keep her at home longer and will help put your mind at ease as well.  Have a candid conversation with him about the impact this care is having on your life.  Oftentimes seniors don’t understand the time commitment of a caregiver.
  3. Bring in outside help.  If a relationship with a senior is deteriorating, ask a professional, such as a geriatric care manager, for an assessment.  A third-party professional can provide valuable input.

Also, go to www.4070talk.com for tips on how to talk with a loved one.  If you are having problems getting through to your older adult, consider asking another family member or close friend to intervene.  If you’re not making headway, perhaps there’s someone better to talk to that older adult.

  1. Research options to find the best resources for a senior in the community.  The local Area Agency on Aging or geriatric care managers are great community resources.   Or go towww.premierseniorhomecare.com and click on the resources tab for The Home Care Solution, a guide for family caregivers to help them find the best in-home care for their loved ones.  If you decide outside help is needed, reassure your parents and tell them you have researched caregivers and you are confident you have found the best one you can find to come into the home to help.
  2. Respect a senior’s decisions. Sometimes you won’t agree with an older adult’s decisions and that’s O.K.  As long as that senior is of sound mind, he or she should have the final say.

Please remember that if a senior has dementia, a doctor or geriatric care manager should be consulted.  Logic often will not work and other strategies must be used.

Once again, unless a senior has dementia, he or she has a right to make the final decision about care, even if a family caregiver or professional doesn’t agree.  The flip side is that family caregivers have the right to suggest limits on behaviours that they think are risky.

Without additional resources and education, the desire to be a perfect family caregiver leads to burn-out.  Perspective can come from friends, support groups and professional and informal support networks.

The battle to turn resistance into assistance can be fierce, like seniors who call police when a professional caregiver shows up.  Education can help arm family caregivers with the tools they need to create a win-win for everyone.

If you are seeking additional help with a family member who is resisting caregiver services, please give us a call and we would love to offer some encouragement and advice for you during this difficult time.

February 22, 2011 in Senior Care