Health care is full of counterintuitive and often perplexing obstacles, and this is especially true when caring for an honored elder. Here is an example: what do you do when you try to care for a loved one and they reject your attempts? Resistance to care is one of the most frustrating experiences a caregiver can experience.
There are a number of reasons a senior may become resistant to care. Some of the most common include:
- They feel like if they accept the care, they will be losing their independence;
- They feel like they will be losing their privacy or otherwise becoming vulnerable to an outside force;
- They feel like accepting care is equivalent to admitting weakness or defeat;
- They believe they have become a burden to loved ones;
- They believe they are incapable of adapting to the new routines of care;
- They believe those new routines will uncover problems they have worked hard to conceal.
If you can get a good grip on why an elderly patient resists care, you can often talk your way through their defenses; provided you are patient, empathetic, and above all, reasonable. Forcefully imposing your will is almost never the right way to approach an aging loved one, it will most often make them resist that much harder.
The Power of ‘Your Side’
When the time comes to discuss a change in care with a venerable patient, it consistently pays if you commence the conversation by reminding them that you are on their side. It is not you vs. them, it is you and them vs. The System at Large. It helps if you initiate that conversation when both of you are in a safe, comfortable space, with as many other family members present as is reasonable.Once trust is established, you can sit back and have a calm assessment to determine what kinds of care your senior loved one needs. Do not use the assessment process to lock them out, but rather, to bring them in. Ask them what concerns they have, and try to address those concerns as soon as possible.
Speaking the Truth in Love
Once you have a plan in place, you might still run into resistance down the road. Generally speaking, if your honored elder has agreed to a plan, it means they have already taken a big first step. Now you just have to move past the next step; the last-second resistance thrown up by someone who is not completely sure and/or has thought up a new angle of doubt.
Provided your venerable patient retains their mental competence, you can overcome most of their objections by:
Picking Your Words Carefully:
It is easy to say whatever you are thinking the way you are thinking it, but ill-chosen words can have a huge negative effect on how your honored elder perceives the process you are about to engage in. Try to think about the process from their perspective, and describe it in the friendliest terms.
Explain What They Need to Do:
Show them that you have worked hard for them, and ask them to make a small sacrifice for you. Then explain in detail just how the new system will work, and ask them to accept the care gracefully. You never know how easy it might be if you just ask.
Set up a Trial Period: It is always easier to get someone to come along if they know there is an easy way to end the arrangement if things do not work out. A trial period will give them a good idea of what they can expect before making a full-blown commitment.
Talk Honestly about Costs and Benefits: There is nothing to be gained by concealing the real costs and benefits from your honored elder. Share openly with them; it will show them you still value their input and trust them to think carefully about how it will all work out.
Be Flexible: There are a thousand battles you could (and will) want to fight when it comes to convincing your aging loved ones to accept the care they are resisting. Save your effort for the important ones, and let them win some of the small battles that do not matter much in the long run.
When All Else Fails, Call in a Professional
If nothing you do convinces your honored elder to gracefully accept the care they need, try bringing in someone with more authority to do the job. A doctor, a lawyer, or another health care expert might be able to convince them to stop resisting and take on whatever regimen of care they need to keep them well.