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4 Key Questions to Ask if a Senior Family Member Refuses Care

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February 6, 2017

It’s not uncommon for a senior to resist the idea of receiving care, especially from an outside source. Most seniors strongly desire to maintain their independence, and that doesn’t just mean living in their own home.

Elaine discovered this truth when she tried to hire a caregiver for her husband, who is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

“I thought it seemed perfectly logical to get a professional caregiver for Roger after he left the stove on while I was at work one day,” Elaine said, “but he got very upset when I brought the subject up. He said he was getting along just fine on his own, even though he agreed he didn’t always remember to turn off the stove or keep the front door locked.”

Even in the face of overwhelming evidence that caregiving support is needed, seniors may be resistant to the idea. But don’t think they’re just being stubborn. Many seniors have valid reasons for refusing care. You can find out the real reason they’re resistant by asking these four questions.

1. Are you concerned about the financial impact of caregiving?

Many seniors live on a tight budget, and professional caregiving services are not free. However, some seniors may overestimate the cost of caregiving, or they may underestimate their own financial position.

If a senior relative cites financial concerns as a reason for refusing care, you can:

  • Take an honest financial inventory that examines monthly income and expenses, as well as cash reserves and investments
  • Produce an accurate financial picture to ensure everyone is dealing with the facts
  • Look for untapped resources, such as a mortgage-free home or veterans’ benefits, that could be used to fund caregiving
  • Enlist a trusted financial advisor to create an unbiased budget that meets the senior’s needs
  • Apply for a home care grant

2. Are you worried about losing your privacy?

Privacy takes many forms. It is not just about being concerned someone will rummage through your personal belongings. When a senior engages a professional caregiver, the senior’s habits and lifestyle suddenly become open to “public” view, which may make them feel scrutinized or judged. And if a senior requires assistance with personal care tasks like bathing, their privacy is further eroded.

If a senior loved one is refusing care due to privacy concerns, you can:

  • Pledge to start slowly, by hiring a caregiver for just a couple of hours a week, on a trial basis. This allows time for the senior and caregiver to develop a trusting relationship that reduces feelings of invasion of privacy.
  • Ask if the senior would rather have a family member provide bathing or toileting assistance. The senior may not want to burden a family member and may prefer a professionally trained caregiver help them with these tasks.
  • If the senior is concerned about theft or other unscrupulous behavior by a professional caregiver, research professional caregivers that are background-checked and bonded, such as those from Home Instead Senior Care .

3. Under what circumstances can you see yourself getting caregiving help?

Many seniors refuse professional care out of a sense of pride. They have always taken care of themselves, and they imagine they always will. Of course, that is a rather rose-colored view of the future.

By phrasing the question of caregiving as an expected future development instead of a “now or never” proposition, you give the senior a sense of control over his own life and allow him to set some criteria under which he will consider professional caregiving.

If the senior refuses to engage in speculation, try to gently lead the conversation yourself by exploring various situations to narrow down the criteria that would warrant getting a caregiver. For example, you could ask:

  • I know you like to plan ahead for unexpected events, so how would you like to handle your home care if something happens to you medically, like a debilitating stroke?
  • How should we proceed if, say, you start forgetting to pay the utility bills?
  • If you reach a point where you can’t keep up with the housework or laundry anymore, what would you like to do?

Be compassionate, not confrontational, when asking these questions. Remember, the point of this exercise is to obtain information, not to badger your loved one.

4. What advice would you give a friend in these circumstances?

Sometimes, due to dementia or simple human frailty, a senior just doesn’t recognize that he or she needs caregiving help. But it’s often easy for them to see when others need help. You can leverage this situation by creating a scenario in which they think they’re advising a friend instead of looking at their own circumstances.

Simply use the tried-and-true “asking for a friend” angle. Construct a fictitious “friend” who needs help, based upon details from the senior’s actual life. Present the scenario to the senior loved one to get his “take” on what the friend should do. If the senior advocates for caregiving, you can later revisit the conversation and gently suggest that your loved one should take his own advice.

And if the senior does not end up seeing professional caregiving as a solution to the scenario you presented, then you’ve gained valuable insight into why the senior is not ready to receive care yet.

Navigating the complexities of interpersonal relationships (and, sometimes, family politics) can lead to power struggles over deciding whether or not a senior relative needs caregiving. However, by asking a few key questions you may be able to identify why a senior is refusing care and then gently persuade him or her to reconsider.

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. February 24, 2017 at 6:41 pm | Posted by Rita Morse

    OK, I do understand.

    Reply

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