For many family members getting an older adult to accept assistance can be met with many barriers. Whether trying to assist with managing finances, implementing home safety measures or arranging for home care, chances are your relative will resist; This especially holds true if your loved one has great pride in being independent.
Below are a few recommendations you may want to consider to increase the chances your loved one will accept the services you know they need:
Pull at the Heart Strings
One technique I often suggest to family members, especially adult children, is to "pull at the heart strings" of your relative. Many older adults will refuse assistance for a variety of reasons but in some cases upon hearing how stressed and worried you are about them, they generally concede so as to not be burden to you. Often a conversation about how stressed you are with trying to manage everything, along with suggestions of services that can ease your troubles, may allow your relative to see things from a different perspective and hopefully agree to the assistance you are suggesting.
Make it About You
One of the worse things you can do is to tell an older adult how THEY are no longer capable of taking care of themselves. Besides being confronted by denial, you may also be accused of being "dramatic," "interfering," or "crazy." Focus instead on how you are arranging for "x" service in order to alleviate some of YOUR own responsibilities. Explaining how some of the physical chores you are doing is straining on your "bad back" or that the amount of time you are taking off from work for doctor's visits is causing trouble with your boss may lead to your relative to agree with your proposal.
Offer a Trial Period
Much like with anything, most of us like the idea of being able to try something first before we fully commit to it. Explain to your loved one how the service you are proposing is something that can easily be cancelled should they not like it. By doing so, they will know they have the final say, which can make the idea of accepting help easier to swallow. It has been my experience that once a good service is in place older adults will see the benefit and stick with it.
Lastly, remember that many older adults despise the thought of receiving assistance because it basically is a blow to the ego and also signifies the inability to tend to their own needs. Understanding where they are coming from, what makes them feel useful and their past history at gaining independence can provide you with additional insight about how best to implement the above recommendations.
Have you had any success with the suggestions made above? Do you have some suggestions of your own? Feel free to share them below.
Christine M. Valentin is a licensed clinical social worker licensed in NJ and NY. She specializes in providing information and counseling to family members who are concerned about an older adult, spouse or significant other. She has offices in downtown Summit and Union Square, NYC. She is currently accepting new clients and also hosts a free monthly support group for caregivers. For more information, visit www.familycaregiversocialworker.com