The topic of senior assistance at home can be met with strong resistance and even hostility at times. Resistance to change is part of human and nature, and as we age, we are facing constant changes in our lives. Our bodies and/ or our minds are no longer functioning as we would like. We can no longer do the things we once loved to do. Our bodies are wearing out and physically some things become a challenge. We may not hear or see the way we did when we were in our youth. Our friends and long-term relationships are changing. We have friends that have passed, friends that have been diagnosed with chronic or terminal illnesses, and friends that have moved into alternative living settings. The world as we know it no longer exists.
Some Communication Tips to Overcome Resistance
Be prepared to meet resistance. Most seniors fear the loss of independence and control over their lives. They really do not see a need to assistance. The mere suggestion of a stranger coming into the home and invading their privacy most likely will be met with resentment.
- Do not respond with anger or frustration, as this only leads to more opposition.
- Never threaten alternative placement in a nursing home or assisted living. This only makes them feel more powerless over their life. You will never gain any ground for anything, with that threat hanging over them.
- Empower your aging family member by having a family care meeting. Discuss how there will can be an improved quality of life with in home help.
- Acknowledge their feelings and fight the urge to argue. Instead, realize that this resistance is a symptom of fear. Common fears seniors face is placement in a nursing home. Most believe accepting help into the home is one step closer to placement. It is important to help them understand that in home health care is actually a way to help keep them in their home and avoid nursing home placement. Another fear is becoming stuck at home and not being able to go out any more. This fear can be overcome by explaining senior assistance at home can actually allow them to have continued freedom to get out of the house.
When you discover the underlying fear or frustration, take a step back and now put yourself in their shoes. Allow yourself to feel what they may be feeling. When you learn to empathize, you will be able to communicate with your aging family member on a different level.
How to Avoid Putting them on the Defensive
It is important to try to empower your family member to feel in control of their own life. This is not an easy task for many of us.
Here are a few communication tips to start negotiating senior assistance in the home:
- Avoid using words like “should” and “you”, because these words usually put people on the defensive. Instead if saying ” You really should get some help with this” say ” I worry about your safety and I would feel better if I knew you were safe.”
- If you have a need to use the word “you” do not begin the sentence with it. It makes a person feel as if you are confronting them. Instead of, “You always complain that I do not visit enough.” try saying ” What you are telling me is that you miss me and would like to spend more time with me? “
- Use more “I” statements. This shows that you are taking on the responsibility for your feelings and concerns. Instead of saying, ” You are still in the same clothes I saw you in the last time I was here.”, try verbalizing your concern, saying ” Geez, mom, those are the same clothes you were wearing the last time I was here. I am concerned you are not bathing and staying as clean as you once did. Are you having problems doing laundry? Are you having problems with bathing? What do you think we need to do to help you take care of yourself, like you used to do? “
Remember, that this is on ongoing process and does not happen overnight. There must be give and take, to get the best possible outcome. Be patient and continue to make them feel as if they have a choice and control over their life. You will meet with less resistance.