It’s not uncommon for a senior to resist the idea of receiving care, especially from an outside source. Most seniors strongly desire to maintain their independence, and that doesn’t just mean living in their own home.
Even in the face of overwhelming evidence that caregiving support is needed, seniors may be resistant to the idea. But don’t think they’re just being stubborn. Many seniors have valid reasons for refusing care. You can find out the real reason they’re resistant by asking these four questions.
1. Are you concerned about the financial impact of caregiving?
Many seniors live on a tight budget, and private professional caregiving services are not free. However, some seniors may overestimate the cost of caregiving, or they may underestimate their own financial position.
If a senior relative cites financial concerns as a reason for refusing care, you can:
- Take an honest financial inventory that examines monthly income and expenses, as well as cash reserves and investments
- Produce an accurate financial picture to ensure everyone is dealing with the facts
- Enlist a trusted financial advisor to create an unbiased budget that meets the senior’s needs
- Contact the home care agency near you for a detailed breakdown of the costs involved in home care.
2. Are you worried about losing your privacy?
Privacy takes many forms. It is not just about being concerned someone will rummage through your personal belongings. When a senior engages a professional caregiver, the senior’s habits and lifestyle suddenly become open to “public” view, which may make them feel scrutinised or judged. And if a senior requires assistance with personal care tasks like bathing or dressing, their privacy is further eroded.
If a senior loved one is refusing care due to privacy concerns, you can:
- Pledge to start slowly, by hiring a caregiver for just a couple of hours a week, on a trial basis. This allows time for the senior and caregiver to develop a trusting relationship that reduces feelings of invasion of privacy.
- Ask if the senior would rather have a family member provide bathing or toileting assistance. The senior may not want to burden a family member and may prefer a professionally trained caregiver help them with these tasks.
- If the senior is concerned about theft or other unwanted behaviour by a professional caregiver, find out what the selection criteria for employing caregivers from the home care agency.
3. Under what circumstances can you see yourself getting caregiving help?
Many seniors refuse professional care out of a sense of pride. They have always taken care of themselves, and they imagine they always will.
By phrasing the question of caregiving as an expected future development instead of a “now or never” proposition, you give the senior a sense of control over his/her own life and allow him/her to set some criteria under which he/she will consider professional caregiving.
If the senior refuses to engage in speculation, try to gently lead the conversation yourself by exploring various situations to narrow down the criteria that would warrant getting a caregiver. For example, you could ask:
- I know you like to plan ahead for unexpected events, so how would you like to handle your home care if something happens to you medically, like a stroke?
- How should we proceed if, say, you start forgetting to pay the municipal bills?
- If you reach a point where you can’t keep up with the housework or cooking anymore, what would you like to do?
Be compassionate, not confrontational, when asking these questions. Remember, the point of this exercise is to obtain information, not to badger your loved one.
4. What advice would you give a friend in these circumstances?
Simply use the tried-and-tested “asking for a friend” angle. Construct a fictitious “friend” who needs help, based upon details from the senior’s actual life. Present the scenario to the senior loved one to get their “take” on what the friend should do. If the senior advocates for caregiving, you can later revisit the conversation and gently suggest that your loved one should take their own advice.
And if the senior does not end up seeing professional caregiving as a solution to the scenario you presented, then you’ve gained valuable insight into why the senior is not ready to receive care yet.
Navigating the complexities of interpersonal relationships (and, sometimes, family politics) can lead to power struggles over deciding whether or not a senior relative needs caregiving. However, by asking a few key questions you may be able to identify why a senior is refusing care and then gently persuade him or her to reconsider.
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