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5 Caregiver’s Perspective: When Elderly Rejects Your Help

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When your elder hesitates to receive help…


Grandma Margaret, a tough and independent widow, has always done things her way, caring for everyone else all these years. We’ve suggested getting some help, especially with her arthritis and nerve pain worsening, but she’s determined to go it alone. We see her strong spirit, but we’re worried about her safety. We struggled to get her to listen, and we had terrible arguments.  Looking back, we may have been a bit pushy and talked down to her. 

We improved our communication and learned to adjust to situations by being more understanding. We also adjusted our perspective to keep Grandma happy and her dignity as much as possible.   



Progress, Not Perfection

Recognizing Tenacity & ConcernsInitially, we observed Grandma Margaret facing challenges with daily tasks such as grocery shopping and household chores. However, our initial discussions weren’t successful, as we inadvertently focused on what she “should not” or “should” do. A friend pointed out that this approach was condescending, making her feel incompetent. Realizing this, we adjusted our communication to express empathy and concern gently.


For instance, we began by acknowledging her resilience in managing pain, saying, “Grandma, your strength in facing this pain and these changes are commendable. We want to support you to continue living well with fewer struggles.” This shift in approach aimed to highlight her strengths rather than weaknesses.


Caregiver Insight: 

Acknowledging the person’s strengths while expressing concerns with empathy is crucial. People may resist changes due to a desire to maintain independence. Understanding this perspective can facilitate more effective communication and support. 


Build Quality Relationship 

Initiate the Right Timing  – Our family gathered in the living room one evening after dinner for a meaningful conversation. With Grandma Margaret included, we openly shared our worries, fears, and expressions of love, highlighting our collective commitment to support her in every possible way. This emotionally charged dialogue allowed us to grasp each other’s perspectives.


Caregiver Insight: 

Select a suitable time for the conversation, understanding that it may take a few attempts to find the right moment. The key is to persist in starting the discussion without fixating on a particular outcome. Discuss concerns openly, express worries, and allow Grandma the space to share her thoughts. Exercise patience and refrain from interrupting, even if some ideas seem impractical. The primary focus should be on comprehending feelings and fears, emphasizing that the conversation is not about winning. 

The objective is to agree to address and negotiate the vital common concerns.


Wisdom Guides Decisions

Exploring Options – In our initial response, we concluded to provide full-time companionship and assist with chores that impact the joints. We also introduced the idea of venturing Grandma into a weekly local senior community center, offering socialization, engaging activities, and home assistance four times a week. We thought we were making wise choices for her and she would love them. Grandma Margaret hesitated to accept the daily caregiving assistance, expressing discomfort with always having someone around and the perceived loss of privacy and freedom.  She also expressed her concerns about losing her independence. With our second open discussion in listing all possible options without compromising her concerns and ours, she agreed to initiate hiring someone twice a week, focusing on more tedious tasks like house cleaning and meal preparation.  We also looked up events at the senior center, but she refused our offer.


Caregiver Insight:

1. Embrace flexibility in finding solutions that align with your loved one’s preferences.

2. Involve them in the decision-making process, asking for their suggestions.

3. Employ a “ping-pong game” approach by noting down each person’s idea and allowing them to choose first, ensuring their preferences precede the decision-making process.


Positivity Transforms Challenges

Engaging a Neutral IntermediaryUnderstanding the importance of an impartial viewpoint, we sought the assistance of a family friend, Sarah, who was experienced in elder care. This trusted third party served as a mediator, offering Grandma Margaret information, addressing her concerns, and emphasizing that accepting support doesn’t mean sacrificing her independence. We agreed to do three tries.  Grandma picked three activities, and our friend Sarah will join her for the first event to keep her company. As a result, she developed new friendships and interests at the community center and actively participated in various enjoyable activities.


Caregiver Insight:

Introducing a neutral third party can provide valuable insights and guidance, helping navigate the gap between reluctance and acceptance in challenging situations.


Success Is Inevitable

Celebrating Milestones Together – We adopted the practice of celebrating small victories as a family. Grandma had the freedom to select her groceries when grocery shopping collectively. At the same time, we assisted with pushing the cart, carrying bags, and reaching items on the shelves. We embraced the challenges and turned them into funny jokes along the way. We even learned some cherished family recipes. Instead of framing assistance as a loss, our focus shifted to the positive elements – the shared laughter during meals prepared with a bit of help and the increased quality of time spent together. 

Caregiver Insight:

Recognize and honor the positive aspects of change. Small victories serve as stepping stones toward greater acceptance. 


As the seasons changed, so did the dynamics within our family. We discovered that embracing change was akin to dancing in the rain –challenging but ultimately worthwhile. Through patience, understanding, and a commitment to preserving Grandma Margaret’s dignity, we turned reluctance into a collaborative journey, finding the balance between managing health issues and quality of life for her and us.

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