Encouraging an Aging Loved One to Accept Help
Mobility issues, unpaid bills, dirty dishes, an unkept appearance and weight changes are all warning signs that someone you love may need extra assistance to continue to live safely and comfortably at home. However, many seniors won’t ask for help and offers of support can be met with conflict, anger or flat out refusal. In fact, a loved one declining to accept help is one of the most common and difficult challenges that family caregivers face. If you’re struggling to encourage an aging loved one to get the help you know they can benefit from, here are some strategies for you:
- Understand the Why: Rather than pushing your loved one to accept support, try to find out why they are so resistant. Is it about fears around the loss of independence, having a stranger in their home, the cost of care or becoming a burden to others? This will help you understand their concerns, reframe your approach and find a solution that will make everyone comfortable. For example, if your Mom takes pride in maintaining her home, emphasize how getting help with the heavy housework like vacuuming and laundry will give her more time to tidy and organize.
- Bring in an Outside Voice: For seniors, accepting help from an adult child or someone younger than themselves can be particularly difficult. If this is the case, it can be beneficial to bring in a social worker, doctor or a family friend to help your loved one better understand your motives. They may be more willing to hear from someone outside of the family and this can prevent further conflict, resentment and distress in your relationship.
- Give Options: As much as possible, involve your loved one in choices regarding their care. Ask them what would make their lives easier, which days and times would be the most helpful and bring them to any interviews or meet-and-greets with personal support workers. This will help your loved one feel like they are a part of the process and still have control over the decisions that are being made about them. Start these conversations early and don’t wait for a health crisis to communicate your concerns.
- Take it Slow: Introducing care gradually can help your loved one get the support they need most urgently. Maybe start with a personal support worker around the house for a few hours a week or schedule a weekly grocery shopping trip together. Having a personal caregiver prepare a healthy meal can feel like a luxury and they may actually enjoy a relaxing ride in the passenger’s seat on the way to a doctor’s appointment. Starting small and slowly will show that you respect their boundaries and independence and you can always move on to other aspects of care later.
Safety should always be your top priority and if you’re loved one is leaving the stove on, mixing up medication doses or wandering, additional help isn’t negotiable. However, if safety isn’t an issue, you may need to step back, reduce your standards and save your time and energy for when it’s really needed.
VHA Home HealthCare may be able to help your loved one if you are concerned about their health and safety. Private services for purchase include foot care, nursing and rehabilitation services, personal care, meal preparation, light housekeeping, companionship, grocery shopping and escorting to appointments on top of other publicly funded support. Contact VHA’s Private Services Team at (416) 489-2500 ext. 4649 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. You may even have coverage for these additional services through your extended health benefit plan.