When Your Aging Parent Resists Care

When Your Aging Parent Resists Care

Your aging mom or dad needs help to remain safe in their home. Your concern for their safety ignites a natural desire to help in some way. You would think such a normal, loving response would be greeted with an equally warm, and loving acceptance from your mom or dad, right?

Because of your concern for your aging parents, you offer to help. After all, it’s evident that your aging parent really isn’t able to manage their affairs on their own. You mention your concern for your aging parent’s situation. You make suggestions and they rebuff your offers. When that happens (which is more frequent than not) both you and your parent can become intensely frustrated.

Your mom or dad’s reaction can make you feel rejected. Your suggestions seem reasonable to you. When they cast aside your suggestion, you get angry. Watching them decline only heightens the concern. For as your aging parents age and weaken, it’s natural your become even more worried about their ability to make decisions that avoid putting them at risk.

The typical results: arguments and hurt feelings.

If you see yourself in this picture, it’s time to take a couple of steps back and revisit some of your assumptions.

First, realize that a primal force of human beings is the desire to be independent. Try to imagine what it would feel like for you to accept care from another. It’s a hard step to take, isn’t it?

It’s difficult to mentally put yourself in the position of being unable to manage your own affairs for a long period of time. Permanently conceding some of your most basic decisions to someone else makes depreciates your sense of importance. You feel uncomfortable. “Old”.

What you are seeing as resistance is the basic desire to independent and maintain relevance.

Accepting that help forever changes two dynamics: the relationship between parent and child and the relationship your loved one has with the world at large. It’s an admission they must rely on others for their survival.

At this stage in their life, aging parents have suffered a long list of losses: loss of their job, reduced income, financial security, declines in vision, hearing, mobility reductions in general state of health the death of friends and loved ones

These losses add up to a loss of their sense of personal significance. Losing control over their decisions inflicts major damage to self-esteem. Their refusal to accept help in the face of evidence is a flawed coping means to maintain an inner sense of self worth. Some elderly feel it’s the “beginning of the end” when they accept any help.

If your mom or dad has been independent all their life, don’t expect them to suddenly change. If fact, expect it to be more difficult for them to accept their limitations. They may find these changes intensely threatening to them.

Family relationship plays a big role in parental resistance. Accepting help reverses roles. The “I’ll Always Be The Parent” types have a difficult time accepting the change. If your relationship has been strained over the years, the conversation about role change will be spiked with intense power struggles.

Stress to your parent you are not trying to take control over their life. Start off slowly. Don’t attempt to plan out their complete future. Let them know it’s a matter of making life better for them in by taking small steps. Emphasize that nothing is “set in stone”. Any decision can be revisited. Plans can be adjusted as required.

This is not something you’ll finish in one long discussion. Use several conversations. Space them out over time. Spreading it out over a number of sessions keeps it from becoming overwhelming.

Concern for your aging parents doesn’t mean you can simply take control of their lives. As long as they full mental competency, the final say is still theirs…even if you think it’s stupid or ill advised. Your involvement is strictly on an “invitation only basis”. Sometimes it takes a crisis before they come around to accepting your help.

A parent showing signs of confusion or memory loss is a different story. They may no longer have the ability to make responsible decisions. The first call is to your parent’s primary care physician to find a professional to assess their mental competency. Ask for a referral to a neurologist or neuropsychologist. A formal diagnosis of dementia or major depression means your loved one no longer has the ability to make responsible decisions.

That’s when it’s clearly time to substitute your decision-making skills for theirs.

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