Mr. and Mrs. Johnson have been married for 55 years, and are proud to live in their beautiful home in the suburbs. In this home they raised their two loving children, Johnny and Julie. They are in their late 80’s, and Mr. Johnson has been experiencing some physical decline, and falls often. Mrs. Johnson has symptoms of dementia, incontinence, and can no longer cook and clean like she used to. The house has an odor of urine, the dust is collecting on the furniture, and the refrigerator is always low on groceries. The sidewalks are icy, and the leaves that fell last fall never got raked up before the snow came. Johnny and Julie have noticed these changes, and are worried.
Johnny and Julie decided to learn about some local senior services, such as Lifeline service, outdoor maintenance, housekeeping, grocery delivery, and in home care. Knowing that mom and dad have plenty of savings to afford the help, Johnny and Julie decided have a conversation with mom and dad. They insist they accept all these different kinds of help in the home. Sure, Johnny and Julie can help out a little bit too, but they both have careers, families, and grandchildren to look after. They figured mom and dad would happily accept the hired help.
Mr. and Mrs. Johnson became upset with Johnny and Julie, and refused all offers for help. “We get along just fine, we have each other,” said Mr. Johnson. “I can still cut the grass; I can still shovel the snow. Mom cooks for us and does the laundry every day. You just keep your ideas to yourself.”
Many of us will someday find ourselves in a caregiving situation for an older adult. Hopefully, the older adult will be accepting of the help you offer, whether it’s provided by you, or arranged with a senior care agency. It can be challenging however, when the older person or persons who need help, refuse to accept it. It’s common especially for older adults to battle with their adult children. To them, they will always see their adult children as their “child.”
Many older adults are fearful to allow “help” to come in to their home. They often fear that if someone from the outside would see how poorly they are functioning in the home, that they can be “forced” to move to a nursing home.
Here are some tips to consider, when encouraging a resistive older adult to accept help in the home.
- Bring up the conversation of getting help when they are open to hearing it. A recent health change or hospitalization may help the older adult realize they need to listen to the caring advice to accept in home help to continue to be able to live independently.
- Gentle persistence is key. Keep bringing it up, letting them know you care for them, and want them to continue to be able to live in their home. Let them know you want what they want, to be safe and healthy. Tell them your ideas to accept in home care are helping them be proactive, versus reactive.
- Start small. Sure, Mr. and Mrs. Johnson could benefit from Lifeline service, lawn mowing, snow removal, housekeeping, grocery delivery, and in home care, but starting all of those services at once may be too overwhelming. Try starting with Lifeline service or grocery delivery first. Once they see that those services are helpful and make life a little easier, they may be open to increasing services in the home in the near future.
- Let them know that you know most older people want to age in place, and remain independent in their homes for as long as possible. The state of Minnesota also is pushing for more Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) as our aging population continues to increase. No one can “force” an older adult to move to an Assisted Living facility or Nursing Home, without a lengthy, costly, and rare, court process.
Caring for older people is difficult. Look to www.eldercarepartners.org for caregiving support.
Written by: Krystal Wiebusch, LSW, Caregiver Consultant