"My Elderly Parents Need Help, but don't want the help".06/01/2011

Does this sound familiar? Is your mother cooking, and leaving the stove or oven on? Is she forgetting the meal in the oven and it catches fire? Luckily your father was home this time. Many adult children can get very frustrated and worried concerning their aging parents. If your aging parents live far away, you may feel helpless on being able to assist them. And, because they live so far away, you may not even be aware of that there may be something wrong. Your mother has been reporting to you how many times dad has been driving into oncoming traffic, going through stop signs and red lights, so it may be possible that your elderly father should be giving up his driver's license. What can you do? You can begin by contacting your local driving bureau in your district to report these incidences. The license bureau of your district will be able to tell you the protocol according to your state or province's laws. Laws may be different from state to state, province to province.

These are just some of many examples of the dangerous behaviors that you may be observing. Please feel free to post your experience in the "comment" section of this blog.

What can you do? An elderly loved one needs help, but does not want to accept it. The frustrations stem from the fact that you cannot do much about it if your loved one is of sound mind. As long as this person is considered apt to make their own decisions, they decide what choices they will make for themselves.

You can always contact your local community care center and request an evaluation or information concerning the situation. You will need to find out what the laws are in your state or province, and your local community care center will be able to inform you of the protocol according for your district. Be aware, however, that your loved one can refuse this intervention. In my experience working in the hospital as a social worker, one scenario that I see over and over again is that of an elderly person getting hospitalized many times before they will accept help. Only after frequent falls and the eventual loss of mobility due to these, loss of driver's license and/or a decrease in their ability to manage their hygiene, will the help finally be accepted. You must remember that losing one's autonomy is very difficult, and one will hang on to their autonomy for dear life. When dealing with this type of situation, try to be compassionate, and understand how this person may be feeling. They are losing control of their autonomy and it is important that you understand that this is a very stressful time for them. Let them know that
you care about them and their safety. Further, when an elderly person is hospitalized, they will most likely be evaluated by a multi-disciplinary team. This team usually consists of a doctor, an occupational therapist, a physical therapist, a dieticien, a nurse, and a social worker. After this evaluation, the team will create a discharge plan to ensure the patient's safety once they leave the hospital. The discharge plan takes into consideration the wishes of the elderly person and that of their family. In the meantime, there are things that you can do to ease the situation. First, you can hold a family meeting with your siblings to discuss the situation and divide and assign tasks to each so as to determine who will be responsible for what concerning the care of your elderly parents. If you are an only child, this may be more difficult, so I recommend you read my section on Support for Caregivers at www.seniorssupportcenter.com.

You can record and document times and dates and the examples of at risk behaviors your elderly parents may be engaging in. You can show this evidence to their family doctor. It is a good idea to have a history of behaviors recorded; although it may not be helpful in the immediate future, it will be useful as time goes on. Further, it will help the doctor create a proper care plan and appropriate follow-up. Explain to your elderly parent that you love them and care about their safety. Do not attempt to control the situation or dictate what you will do to help them. This will most likely cause even more resistance to accepting any type of help. Instead, ask your elderly parent what would help them feel safe, what kind of help they would be willing to accept and would respect their wishes.

If the situation is approached with much love, care and compassion, your chances are much greater that your elderly parents will accept your help. If they feel that they are being challenged, they will most likely oppose anything you have to offer or suggest. Remember, they are the one's losing their autonomy, and it is causing them much suffering and pain. What are your thoughts on this topic? What is your experience?

Author's Bio: 

My experience comes from working as a social worker in the geriatric unit of a public hospital setting. I received my Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) from McGill University and have a passion for working with senior citizens and their families.