January 28, 2016

Why won’t my family member accept help that is obviously needed, and what can I do about it?

After years of living independently, it can be difficult for many of us to accept that we need help. This problem is further compounded by our cultural emphasis on the value of independence above all else. In addition, older adults often resist accepting help due to a fear of burdening their children.

There are two ways to approach this issue: one is to attempt to chip away at the cultural prioritization of independence at all costs, which after a lifetime of adherence to this cultural norm, may prove difficult, or, two, to ease your family member step by step into relationship with a caring, supportive, and engaging caretaker.

There are numerous creative ways in which to introduce a prospective caregiver to your family member in a non-threatening way. The one you choose can be tailored to the particular personality and interests of your loved one. For example, if your family member loves good food, you might choose to have the home health aide arrive simply to cook a few meals. Or, if they love art or music, a home health aide with similar interests can be expertly matched to your loved one. Or, a home health aide can begin by driving your family member to the doctor, a card game, or lunch at the senior center, and start the relationship gradually as you would any other.

We can help our family members reframe the prospective relationship with a caregiver from one that is solely about accepting help to one that emphasizes human connection, empathy, and respect. This can help them to accept the care that is needed and maintain their dignity in the process.