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How to deal with resistance when you're caring

11th February 2016

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.

As loved ones grow older one of the most difficult challenges facing friends, relatives and professionals is their resistance to receiving care. While we may think that our concerns are purely motivated by wanting to help, we often miss how our ‘caring’ actions are perceived by the older individual.

It can be hard to deliver the right care to your friend, patient or relative when they’re determined to carry on living an independent lifestyle, but there’s a way to provide support without restricting them.

By explaining the benefits of getting some assistance and ensuring the individual is involved at every stage of decision making, you can find a solution that will make them more comfortable with accepting care. 

Understanding why

Losing independence can be hard to accept; it becomes a matter of pride to remain self-sufficient even when others want to help.

Many elderly people will see needing additional support as reflecting their own ability in some negative way, rather than an inevitable symptom of getting older. They don’t want to give up their independence or have to change their lifestyle dramatically, even though in reality they may well be able to continue as normal with occasional help.

In some cases, an older person could worry that with their caring needs being met with help from elsewhere, their family could visit less.

There are numerous reasons why your loved one could be opposed to care. Moving forward and finding a system that keeps both of you happy starts with understanding the concerns they have and factoring this into your shared plan.

Naturally, with a sensitive topic like this you’re bound to have questions. It’s important to ask these questions as you work out a solution, make sure you understand yourself what care is available and whether it would be appropriate in your situation. As Care Right Now’s managing director Steve Turner explains:

“From my personal and professional perspective this is an area where things can go badly wrong. We may push services on people that they don’t need. On the other end of the scale we may too readily accept people’s preferences when in fact they don’t have the capacity to make that decision and are at risk.”

Ensure you understand the advice you receive but don’t be too quick to accept it. Every situation is unique and what might work in some cases could prove unhelpful for the elderly person you’re concerned about. Likewise, as much as you want to keep your loved one happy, sometimes doing what’s best for them isn’t necessarily what they want to hear, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have that initial conversation. 

Listening to their concerns

Once again, care is a complicated subject. There are practical considerations like the cost of hiring in-home help or reviewing any state allowances. Aside from this, the emotional implications can make compiling an effective care plan a sensitive matter. Add family dynamics into this mix and you could be treading in dangerous territory.

Geoff Hodgson of magazine Caring Times understands that while care workers are generally aware of the fragile nature of assistance, families can run the risk of being ‘too familiar’. He says:

“For a frail elderly person to become dependent on a family member, often a daughter, this means a relinquishing of power and status within the family unit. An elderly person might not articulate it in those terms but I think it is this loss that cuts even more deeply than increased physical dependence.

“I think this can be ameliorated in some measure by carers being sensitive to this and taking the time and trouble to consult with the individual being cared for on a whole range of family matters, letting them know their opinions are still valued.”

Despite age and vulnerability, the elderly person in your life has something to offer when it comes to considering care and it’s so important to listen to their thoughts and feelings at every point. This may seem like obvious advice, but we all get distracted by daily life and often neglect the opportunity to simply sit down together and air out any concerns that may arise.

Introducing them to care

If you’re noticing that everyday tasks are a challenge for your older friend it may be time to introduce them to a few helpful options, but remember not all elderly people will require fully fledged care. In some cases it could be as simple as getting a gauge for what tasks trouble them and finding a system or gadget that can make it more manageable.

For example, when you know that mobility is becoming an issue for them, instead of simply suggesting they need accessibility help around the house, you can take the time to research stairlift solutions with them. Making an effort to actually help them find a set up that will keep both of you happy will demonstrate that you’re here to do more than set boundaries and they’ll appreciate that you’re willing to put in the ground work too.

Your loved one may not require round-the-clock supervision, in which case hiring a professional care worker is unlikely to go down well, but you could feel that a helping hand around the home would be beneficial.

It’s worth considering a scheme like Share & Care Homeshare, where suitable ‘tenants’ are matched with an elderly person who needs a little support with day-to-day activities. Share & Care Homeshare allows your loved one to retain a sense of control and not feel helpless, as they’re providing accommodation for the person moving in to help.

Caroline from the scheme explains: The concept of Share & Care Homeshare is that while the elderly person is receiving a level of practical help and companionship, they are in turn helping their younger Sharer by giving them an affordable place to live. They can therefore feel that they are giving support to someone else, and retain their sense of pride. It's a barter arrangement for both parties to benefit.”

What can carers take away from this?

Initiating a care plan is never going to be completely smooth sailing; it requires changing habits, a reversal of roles and often the ability to help your loved one understand their own frailty to really break down their resistance to care.

All of this can be exhausting for both parties involved and once you’ve got an amicable plan in place, it’s worth looking up the options available to you as the carer.

Fortunately there is help out there, Carers.org for instance can help carers find the support they need online. The network is especially for those caring and it’s a friendly place where people can meet others in the same situation and share experiences and advice.

Samantha of Carers.org has the following guidance for carers:

  • Older people can often think family are fussing until there is a crisis – it is only at this point that people acknowledged that they need more support
  • Speak to the person you are caring for's GP and health care/social care professionals where possible. 
  • Get support as a carer, contact your local carers centre. 
  • Find support online
  • Ask for a carer’s assessment
  • Time out/ getting a break – for both the carer and the person they care for. Where possible make sure they keep going to the same places they used to e.g. church
  • Often, people will listen to professionals but not to family and a lot of time and worry can be saved by taking this on board early.
  • Healthcare professionals are usually willing to speak directly to carers, for example over the phone. This can really help to make sure carers get told the full story.

Where further intervention is necessary and it’s been discussed at length previously, these are just a few things you can do to get the ball rolling and make sure your loved one is prepared, safe and well looked after in the future.