How to Talk to Your Loved One About Getting Help without Ruining Your Holiday

Holidays with family can be joyful, but, all too often, stressful—especially if your visit home reveals that your loved one is struggling physically, cognitively or both, and needs help.

If you haven’t seen each other for a while, and your loved one has been concealing issues or is in denial of real problems on the ground, your much-anticipated holiday trip can morph into a difficult confrontation.

Most Parents Resist Help from Adult Children—at First

No matter how good your intentions or how deep your concern for your loved one’s situation, however, arguing over the need for help and support probably won’t achieve your desired outcome.

It’s more common than not for aging parents to reject your efforts: According to a recent survey of professional care managers, 80 percent of older adults resist or refuse needed help from their adult children.

Caregiving Can Prolong Independence

So, how do you crack open the door to your loved one’s resistance to help, particularly if you have a substantive, valid concern for his or her safety? The National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (NAPGCM) offers this advice:

  1. Emphasize that receiving help can enable your loved one to stay self-sufficient and continue to live independently.
  2. Acknowledge his fears and concerns, and talk about what might ease his mind.
  3. Figure out which family member(s) your loved one will be most willing to talk to about these issues, and involve them in the discussion.
  4. Once your loved one is willing to accept some caregiving support, start slow—even if you know that she needs many more hours of help. Prepare caregivers with your loved one’s likes and dislikes, and alert them to possible resistance.
  5. Explain that nothing is written in stone; introduce the caregiver as help for a trial period.
  6. If your loved one has dementia, consider consulting with a professional care manager about strategies that might work.

Understand Your Loved One’s Point of View

Above all, try to empathize with your loved one’s situation and vulnerability. We live in a society that prizes independence. Accepting help is often perceived as a weakness, even when that help can enable your loved one to remain in her own home, safely.

Expect the process of accepting help to take time. Back off if you find that your own anxieties are getting in the way, and hand over the discussion to a trusted family member or friend. A professional care manager can play the role of neutral party and help mediate difficult family conversations to everyone’s benefit.

President of Deborah Fins Associates, PC, since 1995, Deborah Liss Fins is a licensed independent clinical social worker and certified geriatric care manager. Drawing on more than 30 years of professional experience in geriatric care management, DFA offers comprehensive assessments and planning, guidance in selecting appropriate care, help identifying resources for financial support and professional consulting. Please contact us to set up a complimentary initial telephone consultation.

For more on coping with aging, follow us on Twitter: @DeborahFinsGCM.

The National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (NAPGCM) was formed in 1985 to advance dignified care for older adults and their families. Geriatric Care Managers are professionals who have extensive training and experience working with older people, people with disabilities and families who need assistance with caregiving issues. They assist older adults who wish to remain in their homes, or can help families in the search for a suitable nursing home placement or extended care if the need occurs.

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One Response to How to Talk to Your Loved One About Getting Help without Ruining Your Holiday

  1. Loren Gelberg-Goff says:

    Always great advice and recommendations! I love sharing your wisdom with my clients! and we breathe, Loren

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