We don’t like to think about death and disease. This is natural, especially as we get older and maybe start to notice lapses in our normal strength. We don’t like to think that Alzheimer’s, for example, is a prominent killer in the U.S. that cannot be prevented, cured, or even slowed down by much. We don’t like to think of what will happen to our homes, pets, children, etc., if we are diagnosed with a degenerative illness like lung disease or dementia.
And yet, these are the facts of life. More than 70% of adults will eventually need some kind of home care service, hospice care, or assisted living, and this is something families should prepare for. But what do you do if your loved one is in denial about their deteriorating condition? Whether your family is considering a senior home care facility or some sort of in home care service, this can be a big adjustment for an elderly person who is used to living independently. Below are some tips on how to manage an elderly family member who may be resistant to the idea of assisted living:
1. Listen to them. Really listen, and figure out what their reservations are.
Many people dive into these discussions about home care service or assisted living on the offensive, armed with facts and all kinds of arguments. But often the best thing you can do, especially if met with initial strong resistance from the person of interest, is to listen and try to figure out why they are resisting. Do they really not like the brochures or the idea of an in-home nurse, or is this a matter of pride? Fear? Are they confused or depressed about their situation? Once you figure out what exactly your ailing loved one is afraid of, you will be that much closer to allying their fears and getting them the care they need.
2. Implore them to look outside themselves.
Often an effective strategy to get a loved one to hear you is to explain to them how their situation is effecting the lives of those around them. For example, instead of saying “Mom, you need to get a home care service because you can’t get around your house anymore,” you could frame it more “Mom, I really wish you’d look into home care service with me so that I won’t worry so much about you when I leave you alone.”
3. Get them looking towards the future.
Remind your loved one what is at stake if they put their safety at risk by not seeking the help they need. If there’s a graduation, a wedding, or a family reunion on the horizon, remind them of this in the context of keeping fit and getting help.
4. Don’ t patronize them.
Often, it’s not the idea a loved one is resisting — it’s the attitude of the messenger. If an older person feels they’re being talked down to, especially about something as sensitive and emotional as Alzheimer?s care for instance, then they’re far more likely to be oppositional as a way to retain their dignity, and not necessarily because they hate your idea. The bottom line is, you need to treat older people like the adults they are, not not speak to them like unruly children whenever they disagree with you.
And above all…don’t get too down on yourself. Dealing with a sick loved one is trying at best, so be kind to yourself throughout this process, tap into your support system, and try to internalize the fact that everyone is acting from a place of love in the situation.