Caring for the elderly: Dealing with resistance
Caring for the elderly can be challenging — particularly if a loved one doesn't want help. Understand what's causing your loved one's resistance and how you can encourage cooperation.
By Mayo Clinic Staff
One of the toughest challenges you can face when caring for the elderly is resistance to care. How do you help a loved one who doesn't want help? Understand why resistance to care might develop and strategies for fostering cooperation.
What causes resistance to care?
If your loved one is in need of care, he or she is likely dealing with loss — physical loss, mental loss, the loss of a spouse or the loss of independence. Accepting help might mean relinquishing privacy and adjusting to new routines. As a result, your loved one might feel frightened and vulnerable, angry that he or she needs help, or guilty about the idea of becoming a burden to family and friends.
In some cases, your loved one might be stubborn, have mental health concerns or simply think it's a sign of weakness to accept help. He or she might also be worried about the cost of certain types of care. Memory loss might also make it difficult for your loved one to understand why he or she needs help.
What's the best way to approach a loved one about the need for care?
In some cases, the doctor will start a discussion with your loved one about his or her care needs. If you're starting the conversation and you suspect that your loved one will be resistant to care — whether from family, other close contacts or a service — consider these tips:
March 04, 2017
- Determine what help is needed. Make an honest assessment of what kind of help your loved one needs and which services might work best.
- Choose a time when you and your loved one are relaxed. This will make it easier for you and your loved one to listen to each other and speak your minds.
- Ask about your loved one's preferences. Does your loved one have a preference about which family member or what type of service provides care? While you might not be able to meet all of your loved one's wishes, it's important to take them into consideration. If your loved one has trouble understanding you, simplify your explanations and the decisions you expect him or her to make.
- Enlist the help of family members. Family and friends might be able to help you persuade your loved one to accept help.
- Don't give up. If your loved one doesn't want to discuss the topic the first time you bring it up, try again later.
See more In-depth
- What to consider in the beginning. National Association of Social Workers. http://www.helpstartshere.org/seniors-and-aging/caregiving-tips.html. Accessed Jan. 25, 2017.
- Goldman S. The educated consumer's guide to choosing a social adult day program. National Association of Social Workers. http://www.helpstartshere.org/seniors-and-aging/caregiving/the-educated-consumers-guide-to-choosing-a-social-adult-day-program.html. Accessed Jan. 25, 2017.
- Making choices about everyday care (for families). Family Caregiver Alliance. http://caregiver.org/caregiver/jsp/content_node.jsp?nodeid=406. Accessed Jan. 25, 2017.
- Eldercare at home: Caregiving. AGS Foundation for Health in Aging. http://www.healthinaging.org/resources/resource:eldercare-at-home-caregiving/. Accessed Jan. 25, 2017.
- Mace NL, et al. The 36-Hour Day. 5th ed. Baltimore, Md.: The Johns Hopkins University Press; 2011.