Senior Personal Care: How to Get Your Loved One to Admit They Need Help

Get your loved one the help they need . . . before it’s too late.
Image credit: Flickr user Geraint Rowland[/caption]

Get your loved one the help they need . . . before it’s too late.
Image credit: Flickr user Geraint Rowland
When the time came to secure senior personal care for my family, we were very lucky. Both my widowed grandmothers were not only open to the idea, but extremely enthusiastic. They were adamant about having a home health aide to assist them around the house, to run errands, and to generally provide companionship when friends and relatives were unable to do so.
But how do you approach a senior who needs help at home, but doesn’t want to admit it? Perhaps you’ve already had an initial conversation, but all your good intentions have fallen upon deaf ears. Here are a few pointers that might break through a senior’s denial when homecare is truly necessary.

Bring backup

Rather than approaching the senior alone, come in a group with familiar friends and family members – people the senior knows and trusts. But don’t bring too many, or the senior may feel like they’re being attacked. Three to five should do – just enough to show concern, and that the need for senior personal care isn’t based on the opinion of only one person.

Doctor’s orders

Get senior’s doctors and other medical professionals involved. Now, a doctor can’t legally or medically order someone to secure senior personal care. They can recommend it, and write an “order,” which is essentially a prescription, but it’s not the same thing. However, a physician’s opinion can carry more weight than yours. Try not to be offended if this is the case. Even if you are their grown son, daughter, or caring friend, some seniors will listen to their doctor when they’ll listen to no one else. This is because many of them grew up in a time when they were taught to give much more credence to doctors’ opinions than people do today.

Offer a trial period

If money is a concern, offer to pay for a home care trial period. In fact, it’s a good idea to find out what the concerns are before trying to convince your loved one of the need for senior personal care. If your senior is worried that a home health aide is the first in a long line of steps towards a nursing home, let them know that such help can delay the need for long-term care.

Use peer pressure

Most of our lives we’re taught not to give into peer pressure. However, this is one of the times it’s perfectly okay to ignore that advice! As long as you’re truthful, feel free to let your loved one know which friends or peers of theirs have a home health aide. Get them to tell your senior about the experience. Sometimes, when your loved one hears how positive it is, they change their minds. It can be very helpful to find a peer who was in the exact same position as your senior (i.e. refused to consider the idea of help at home), but saw the light when the benefits of home care became clear.

Last resort

If you think your senior is being reckless, not acting out of his or her best interest, and most importantly, lacks the mental capacity to do so, you can start the process to have them declared legally incompetent. Then, you may be able to have yourself declared their medical power of attorney and dictate whether they need home care or, more likely, institutionalization. However, that is only a last resort, and if you wish to do so, I recommend speaking to an attorney. Such proceedings are beyond the scope of this article.

Senior personal care is an individual decision

The bottom line is, you can’t make anyone do anything they don’t want to do if you don’t have legal authority over them. If your loved one is unwilling to accept that they need senior personal care, you’re powerless over the situation, heartbreaking though that may be. All you can do is urge them to turn in the right direction, and hopefully, revisit the conversation again when they are ready. Sometimes, as circumstances change (and possibly worsen), they come to see that maybe accepting the help they need isn’t so bad after all.
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home senior care. Contact us to find out more.

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