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Every option has been explored, thought about and double-checked. It seems like the perfect plan, one that surely will be a win-win for everyone involved. How can it not be?
Then the plan is presented; to uproot Mom or Dad from their home, from their everyday life to a new environment, with new services and care to assist them. And immediately the plan is shot down. The circumstances that have led the family to this decision have been tough enough, but who would have imagined this response from them? Doesn’t Mom or Dad understand you only have their best interests in mind?
When plans or decisions are met with resistance, the act of providing care becomes more frustrating and sometimes unbearable.
Resistance to family members from an older person is only natural. It is second nature not to want to admit defeat or give up independence. For older folks, accepting help and assistance may make them “look old” or seem not as valued as they once were. For a family caregiver being resisted, frustration and resentment can build because their plans were not met with enthusiasm. Some family caregivers give up at this point.
It comes down to the old cliché, “walk a mile in my shoes.” How would you feel if someone took over many, if not all, aspects of your life? Would you still feel as valued or needed as you did in the past? Would you wonder what you had done to deserve this type of treatment?
For the caregiver and the older family member, it is important to recognize the feelings of stress and loss of independence that will arise when plans are presented to move to another home or facility, to move in with a relative, to bring in outside agencies or individuals to assist with care, or to take away the keys to the car.
As a caregiver, it is important to allow a loved one to take part in the decision making process surrounding their care. Even if the individual has dementia, it is important to keep talk with them simple and consistent for them to process. Allowing the older family member to take part in conversations allows them a say in planning their future. For both parties, compromise may have to happen.
When making drastic, life-changing presentations, try to keep personal feelings or attacks out of the conversation. This often becomes the time to lay blame or bring up hurtful actions from the past. Sometimes saying the wrong words completely unravels the focus of the plan and nothing will be accomplished. Try to stay focused on the reason for the plan, which is their care and quality of life.
Again, many of these conversations are about compromise. Being willing to work with an older family member may lead to some kind of agreement. If you have suggested that they need full time care in their home and the family member refuses, then compromise to have someone in the home a few days a week and a home delivered meal service instead. This type of “plan B” may ease the threat of giving up everything and be agreed on by everyone involved.
Most importantly, realize, more than likely, the older family member is not going to be happy about the situation. It is only human. Focus on the positive aspects that the change in care or environment will bring to them and you as their family member.
It may be helpful, in some cases, to have a third party or neutral party to help lead the presentations. This person can act as a facilitator to keep the subject of care in focus, and help to redirect negative feelings or talk. Geriatric case managers, social workers, healthcare professionals and clergy often are instrumental as non-judgmental facilitators.
If it is possible, try not to throw too many life-changing plans at an older family member all at once. Give them the time to absorb what is happening and how it will affect them. Easing into the conversations or introducing one action at a time may help alleviate the feelings of being overwhelmed.
Resistance to change, especially when it is life changing, is natural. With flexibility, open minds and options, necessary care changes may be exactly what are needed for the family member to stay safe, comfortable and satisfied.
Monica Ruehling can be reached at email@example.com.