Helping Aging Parents Who Don’t Want Help

Carolyn L. Rosenblatt,Forbes Magazine

Here’s something that trips up just about everyone we know. Our aging parents don’t want to believe that they’re getting older and need help.
In one case, a client we’ll call Barbara was trying to persuade her dad to get a helper at home after her mom passed away. Dad was adamant at first. He could manage by himself, but he couldn’t cook. After he lost 15 pounds, Barbara finally talked him into a home care worker to do the cooking. Within two months, he was back to normal weight and even got to like the worker.
Then there was Melissa and her sister, Joan. Both tried desperately to convince their mom to move. Widowed, she still lived alone in the comfortable, two-story family home. She had fallen several times, fortunately without serious injury. They begged. They pleaded with her to check out assisted living, or some other alternative. Mom was so stubborn!
Mom was fine until she fell on the stairs and broke her neck. Surgery followed. A metal neck brace was needed. Nine months of recovery and one nursing home later, she finally agreed to move to assisted living when her doctor said flatly: “You can’t live alone anymore.”
These stories are true. Ironically, the dad got to like the worker he said he didn’t need and came to rely on her. The mom in question adapted beautifully to assisted living and made many new friends.
Why won’t they listen to their kids before there’s a crisis?

Pride, fear, unwillingness to accept the realities of aging, and extreme discomfort with change are some of the reasons.
  • If feasible, we always encourage a family meeting, including not only adult children, but caring others as well. A best friend may hold more sway in convincing a stubborn parent to think about safety than “the kids.” (What do they know anyway?) Clergy, or someone the aging parent looks up to and respects, can be invaluable in persuading a change of heart.
  • A doctor’s input can be quite helpful. Our elders may trust and believe their doctors and take their direction seriously. We encourage asking the doctor to see the aging parent and to strongly advise a move or other step the parent can take to reduce the risk of living alone.
  • As responsible adult children, we can check out suitable alternative living situations in advance and ask the aging parent to visit with us. “Just have lunch and see the place” is a first step. Most such facilities will gladly serve you lunch and show you around, introducing an aging parent to other residents.
  • Marketing directors at assisted living facilities can be useful in helping an aging parent with the often difficult transition. However, beware of the sales pitch. They want to match the facility to the prospect, but there can be tremendous pressure on them to fill empty apartments. It is important to understand the legal limits of assisted living. Know them if you are considering it as an option for your parent.
  • When our parents resist our help and refuse all suggestions, as some do, we can’t force them. The exception is when an aging parent is truly a danger to himself or herself and legal means to protect the parent become necessary.
  • Guardianship (also called conservatorship in California), while the ultimate protection against self-neglect, is an extreme step and should only be taken with the advice of an experienced elder law attorney. I consider it a sad last resort. It may be necessary, but it may carry a large emotional and financial price tag.
  • Short of guardianship, we must remember the simple truth: There’s no law against adults (even aging ones) making stupid decisions. As responsible and caring family members, we have to try our best to get our parents to look out for their own safety and well-being and to overcome their fears and resistance to change.

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Filed under adult children of aging parents, Alzheimer's Disease, assessments, care giving, care planning, clinical trial studies, dementia, elder care raleigh nc, Geriatric Care Management, long term care planning, NC, Nursing Homes, Raleigh, senior care, Seniors and driving, support groups, travel with seniors, Uncategorized

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