What to Do When an Older Loved One is Resistant to Care


Caring for an older loved one can be a challenge, even more so if the family member is resistant to care. In dealing with this type of situation, it is important to understand the source of the resistance and how to encourage cooperation.

A family member who resists care, whether it is direct help by a loved one or professional care, is likely experiencing unhappiness due to loss of independence. Needing to be cared for involves a disruption of routine and loss of privacy, which can be disconcerting. An older family member may be feeling frightened of aging or feel guilty about being a burden on other family members. All of these factors can combine to cause a response that is understandable even if it is not very rational: resisting needed care.

An important part of dealing with resistance to care is knowing when and how to have the necessary conversations with your loved one. You should bring the subject up at a relaxed time when you will be able to take time to listen to each other. Be sure to ask questions about your family member’s needs and preferences. Even someone with Alzheimer’s or other dementia can express preferences. If your loved one is resistant to even talking about the care situation, try letting the matter rest for a while and bringing it up again later.

One effective strategy for encouraging cooperation is to suggest that a new type of care be introduced on a trial basis. Whether the change involves bringing in a home health aide or leaving home, much of the resistance may come simply from fear of the unknown. Once your loved one actually experiences the benefits of care, there may be less trouble accepting it. In the case of a home health aide, it can be useful to point out that this can help prolong independence.

Depending on the situation, it also may be helpful to have a professional such as a doctor, attorney or care professional explain the need for care and the benefits of a certain arrangement. Due to family dynamics, an older parent may be more likely to take the advice of a trusted adviser.

Resistance to care can be an enormous challenge. Communicating effectively with your family member can make all the difference.
For more information about our elder law services, visit www.elderlawnewyork.com.

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