Many older adults are resistant to the idea of having a caregiver. The individual’s family sees the need is there, and broaches the subject but they refuse, maybe even become angry or upset. The reasons vary widely but there are usually a few common themes.
- Loss of independence
- Lack of Control
- Desire to retain privacy
- Fear of allowing a stranger into their home
Starting the Conversation. To set yourself up for success with the initial conversation, there are a few things you can do to minimize the likelihood of a negative response. First, choose the right time to bring it up. Pick a calm, quiet time when other distractions are not likely to interrupt. Taking a loved one “out to lunch” for example may not be an ideal example, because a restaurant is noisy and distracting. You also don’t want your loved one to feel “trapped” in the conversation, as in he or she cannot easily choose to get up and leave the room.
Second, make sure you are prepared to listen. Do not talk “to” your loved one, but “with” them. Let them express their concerns, fears and wishes. Use an empathetic tone and validate what is said.
Some families will come together to address this concern as a family “intervention style”. This may be a good approach for some, but for others it may come off a confrontational. Consider your loved one’s personality and how he or she may respond to being approached by several family members at once. It may be a better idea to have one family member, usually one who is closer to the individual (most often the one who has been providing most of the care) approach them one on one first rather than in a group. This will make them feel less like they have been “ganged up” on.
Negating the Concerns. Once you have validated your loved one’s concerns, you must address them. Here are some examples of how to address the above listed concerns.
Loss of Independence: Many older adults are under the false impression that by refusing care, they are protecting their independence. While it is quite the contrary, refusing care is actually risking complete loss of independence. If an older individual ends up hurting oneself because he or she cannot function properly alone, they will inevitably end up in a crisis situation and choices will be much more limited from there. Furthermore, by refusing bringing in home care, they are often expecting family and friends to pick up the slack, sometimes without even realizing they are doing so. If the burden of caring for your loved one is wearing on you, explain your need to reduce your workload, while emphasizing that you want to help him or her maintain their independence as long as possible.
Lack of Control: Ensure your loved one that they will call the shots in when and how to receive care. Setting realistic expectations between the caregiver and care receiver early on will neutralize this concern.
Desire to retain privacy: Make sure this concern is voiced in the interviews with caregivers. Most professional caregivers know how to maintain that fine balance between safety and privacy. If they are aware of this concern, they can use an even more delicate approach with your loved one.
Fear of allowing a stranger in the home: Using a qualified agency will ensure that the caregivers have been fully credentialed and background checked. While this doesn’t ensure 100% that “bad apples” will not work their way in, it does defuse many risks. You can also install “nanny cams” to add an additional layer of security.
Embarrassment: Counteract this concern immediately by addressing it up front. By approaching needs like incontinence care and bathing in a straightforward manner with dignity and respect, the awkward feelings your loved one has will fade to the background.
Next Steps. Start by finding reputable in home care agencies that allow the client to interview and select their own candidate. Including your loved one in this process, rather than setting it up without their knowledge or consent, will ensure they are “bought in” to the idea and have a feeling of control over their own destiny.
If your loved one remains hesitant, suggest a trial run or respite. A good opportunity may be if you are going away on a business trip, vacation, or preparing for a medical situation of your own. Suggest that you could use the extra help during that time. This may give you a window of opportunity for your loved one to try it out, and decide for him or herself that having home care is a good thing.
You may also want to enlist the help of a professional consultant to help you through the process. An aging life care manager can be hugely beneficial because your loved one may be more open to hearing what they have to say, and they have a wealth of knowledge, experience and resources to share with you. The term it takes a village does not apply only to raising children!
Allegiance Aging Care Services provides hourly and live in care, give us a call today to secure a quality live in Care Professional for your loved one living in the Northern Virginia area.
About the Author: Pam Reynolds, CMC is the President and co-owner of Allegiance Aging Care Services. Pam has spent almost fifteen years working in senior care including long term care facilities and home health care. Her higher education is in Social Work, and she has been credentialed as both a certified Geriatric Care Manager and Licensed Assisted Living Administrator. Read more about Pam and her team of Aging Care Professionals here.