When Someone You Love is Resistant to Care

As my mother aged into her 90’s, she began to need help with things like driving and grocery shopping. Always a strong independent woman, she resisted any suggestion that it might be good to have a little help. At the time I visited about twice a year, at Christmas and in the summer months. Since I only saw my mother infrequently, I saw the speed of her decline much more clearly than my brother. Each time I visited, I told my brother that we needed to get Home Instead in to help her. Each time he spoke with her about this, she refused. Her resistance to care was worrisome, but not yet critical.

In 2012 she got sick during the winter months, and her recovery was slow and arduous. She had no energy for housekeeping, laundry, or running errands. I came more frequently because I knew she needed more help. Once there, I encouraged her to let Home Instead come in a few times each week while she regained her strength, and she agreed. I think it was a relief to have the help, and after a few different people, she found a CAREGiver she really liked. Laverne was with her for five years, right up to her death in December of 2017.

For seniors, independence is an essential part of their identity. The ability to make choices about what they wear, what and when they eat, or when they leave to run errands allows them to still have a measure of control in their life, even if their physical or mental abilities are declining beyond their ability to maintain the independence they have enjoyed for so long a time. Their refusal to accept help, in spite of mounting evidence to the contrary, is another attempt to maintain control of their lives.

To get your parent or loved one to accept help, you might need to try several different approaches.

  • First, you need to get an honest assessment of what assistance your parent truly needs. Often family caregivers will think a loved one needs around-the-clock care when the reality is their family member needs a few hours each week to enhance their quality of life and sense of self-esteem vastly. Home Instead has developed an instrument that asks a series of questions and delivers an objective assessment of how much care is genuinely needed.
  • Next, you should talk with your parent about trying out care for a few weeks to see if it might be of value. If cost is a concern, discuss this through with real information like the range of price, whether Medicare or Medicaid will cover the cost, and if a Long-Term Care (LTC) policy is an option. If a family member provides the care, some LTC policies will pay for this care as well.
  • Another approach might address your concerns for your dad’s safety if he refuses the care. He might accept the help if it is described as a personal chef or assistant rather than a nurse aide or caregiver. The more professional title might make him feel more pampered and less “needy.”

For more suggestions, check out this article from AARP: When Angry Loved Ones Resist Caregivers or this article from Caring.com.

In my mother’s eyes, to need help meant she was weak. She also enjoyed time alone in her home, and the CAREGiver’s presence felt like an intrusion. Initially, she resented the need to plan out her time when the CAREGiver came. After a few weeks, however, they settled into a routine that became comfortable and congenial. Laverne started out as more of a housekeeper, but in later years she helped my mother with bathing, dressing, and toileting. As my mother’s abilities to care for herself continued to decline, Laverne was able to help her remain independent in her own home. Because my brother and I were finally able to overcome her resistance to care, our mother lived the way she wanted, right up to the day she died, at home and surrounded by her family.



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