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Dealing With A Relative Who Doesn’t Want Care

How to care for someone who doesn’t want care (but needs it)?

One of the many sides of aging that we often fail to see in advance is the need of care and assistance in the later stages of life. Nobody likes to think about becoming dependent on other people’s help, and people sometimes fail to spot the first signs of their loved one needing a caregiver, or being in need of assistance themselves. This development can lead to a very deep frustration and sometimes even anger, resulting in resistance and denial towards accepting a caregiver.

The question rises: how to take care of someone who refuses to be taken care of? I’ll try to give you an answer to that, and hopefully help you deal with your loved one’s resentment for good.

Stage one: Planning

When it comes to sensitive subjects regarding aging (such as finances, health issues or  the possibility of reduced independence), it’s very important to open this topic up in the family before it becomes imminent. Try to choose the right moment when everyone is relaxed and talk about the measures that may need to be taken in the future, and how everyone would want them to go down. Stay realistic during the planning process and consider all the options, such as

  • What to do in the sudden case of an illness?
  • Will someone from the family be able to take care of the senior relative?
  • Would your relative be okay with a live-in caregiver?
  • How about a nursing home?

It’s not an easy subject, but avoiding it doesn’t make the possible complications disappear. Being ready for all the eventualities will be easier for your loved one as well as for the whole family.

Stage two: Understanding

If planning didn’t work out, help or take place at all, and your loved one is taking a negative stance towards being cared for by someone, you need to understand the motivations of their resentment. Resistance can be exhausting and irritating for both you and the patient, that’s why you need to stay calm and try to find your way to the core of the issue rather than using brute force.

The reasons for negative stance towards caregiving can vary, from cognitive issues, to fear and grief, to physical pain that you haven’t been previously aware of. Our elderly parents may also have stubborn personalities or haven’t been used to asking for help all their lives, that’s why such a sudden change may be more than they can take.

Try putting yourself in your parents’ and grandparents’ shoes. Try talking to them reasonably, without pushing them emotionally or forcing them into anything. Stay calm, and show them you’re on their side.

Stage three: Involvement

You need to involve your senior loved ones into deciding who will be their caregiver as much as their health condition allows. No matter if it’s a family member, a private caregiver or a professional from a caregiving agency, your relative should have the right to veto before a decision is made. Sit down together and make an assessment of all the services that need to be taken care of. That will help you decide what type of care will be needed. Then ask for your relative’s preference, and take them into consideration. It’s their life, so it should also be their right of choice. Having a say in the decision-making could help reduce the anxiety from the new, vulnerable situation they’ve found themselves in.

Stage four: Humanity

This is definitely not the “next step to take”, but more of a general rule to keep in your mind when going through this difficult time.

We’re all just people. We have our moods, our fears, our hopes and our feelings, and that needs to be taken into consideration constantly. Whenever you’re having difficulties explaining your family member why it’s important for them to get help and they refuse to listen, don’t forget that they’re grown men and women who have suddenly found themselves between a rock and a hard place, and need to start relying on someone else in order to keep on living their lives. That’s not an easy fact to accept, and also not easy to imagine yourself. Be patient. Be human.

Another important point to keep in mind is that people are social beings, but it doesn’t always click. You don’t need to love spending time with your caregiver, but life’s much more fun if you do. Make sure that you take the time to find someone who’ll be The One for your senior loved one.

 Resistance and denial are difficult obstacles, but not impossible to overcome. With a little bit of understanding and patience, you’ll always be able to find a way.