“Sometimes having to accept help is harder than giving it.”
For the worn out family caregivers reading this, there might be head shaking in response to this statement; others might be nodding in agreement. The truth is, it’s more common for people to say no, they are fine, thank you very much, and don’t need any extra help…except for you to take them to the doctor next Tuesday, pick up a few essentials from the grocery store on your way home from work, and much more. Yet if you were to suggest they need help, maybe even hiring someone to assist them around the house, they are likely to say they don’t need any help.
Just the word “help” can offend some people, even if the suggestion is for a familiar and trustworthy loved one to pitch in. Once people have gotten used to living independently, it can be very challenging—and humbling—to ask for and accept assistance with their daily activities.
Who’s In the Driver’s Seat?
When a loved one begins to struggle with living independently either because of age or illness, it can be tempting to rush in and do things for them, or tell them what they need. Before acting on that impulse, hit pause.
Even if your loved one is your same-age spouse or your much older-than-you parent, it is still their life. The best approach is to ensure this person that they are very much in the driver’s seat and you are not taking over to dictate what is best. No one wants to feel like their life has been taken from them, even if done so in a well-meaning effort.
Rather than becoming a caregiver, think about being a care partner so that you are both engaged in this new relationship dynamic.
Listen, Don’t Tell
Assuming your loved one is well enough to communicate with you, start a conversation about the future. Rather than just telling them that what you think they need, begin with a question asking for their thoughts, feelings or opinions.
The goal should be to create plans based on their preferences or to have “person-directed care” that is rooted in their individual likes and dislikes. While limitations might exist or develop, when possible this is a good place to start so that they get the assistance needed rather than clam up.
It might be better if the message doesn’t come from you even so involve a health care provider who can make suggestions from a position of authority.
A person’s ability to process and accept some information may depend on their current well-being; for some people living with dementia, the illness can make it a challenge for them to comprehend, much less accept these messages regardless of the source or tactic.
Even if someone cannot articulate that they feel embarrassed or afraid because they need help, keep in mind that it’s likely they do feel this way and therefore be sensitive and gentle as you help them make adjustments to live a supported independent life.
As difficult as it might be to have these conversations or even to find the resources to be a family caregiver, keep in mind that there is some degree of difficulty for the person you are helping.
Whatever the situation today, care needs will change over time as well-being fluctuates so know that there will be on-going discussion and adjustments for both caregiver and care receiver.
To learn more about in-home care for all ages, contact us today.