How to help an ageing parent: dealing with resistance and denial
One of the toughest challenges for families, when loved ones are considering a life transition such as a move into a seniors' residence, is dealing with resistance and denial.
This issue has become even more sensitive due to the pandemic and some of the troubling events that occurred in our CHSLD long term care homes. Although senior's residences are much better prepared, it is rare that all family members see eye to eye regarding a potential transition. We often see couples that disagree on their own health status. Too often, it is the caregiving spouse that suggests it may be time to consider a move. This is commonly met with resistance. Sometimes adult children disagree with their parent(s). Siblings can also argue amongst themselves as they have differing opinions. Relationships can suffer and tensions mount.
Lack of knowledge, anxiety, fear and not willing to accept the fact that increased care may be required are some of the more popular reasons adding to these difficult decisions.
We often hear “Why disrupt things?”; “Only old people live in seniors’ residences”; “I’m not like them”; or “We’ll be able to manage”. The decision to move usually comes down to the physical and cognitive state of the individual(s). We encourage everyone to stay at home as long as possible providing their health, safety and security are not at risk. Once at risk, action should be taken.
How can we effectively deal with resistance and denial?
Be proactive by having discussions with your loved ones to get a better understanding of their concerns. Have them state their ideal scenarios. Encourage an open, transparent conversation where there will be no judgement. Try to have these discussions as early as possible to avoid a crisis situation where immediate decisions are required.
Talking to a trusted professional or advisor can sometimes ease the situation. Start with your family physician or specialist. They can be objective and call it like it is. Doctors will recognize potential vulnerabilities and will usually suggest alternative living arrangements if they feel a person is at risk.
Worried about running out of money? Talk to your financial advisor and accountant to prepare a financial plan to see if you could justify a move to a senior’s residence.
Social workers, geriatricians and senior specialists can also play an important role.
Look for trigger events to start a conversation. Slips and falls on stairs or in the bathtub resulting in a visit to the emergency room should be reason alone to discuss safety at home. Improper use of medication, unpaid bills, car accidents and forgetting appointments are just a few other examples of trigger events that should raise concerns.
Another type of trigger event can simply be a neighbour or friend that made the move to a senior’s residence. This could open the door to discuss the benefits of a transition to a safer and healthier environment.
Familiarize Yourself with Residence Options
An ideal way to address the fear and stigma of senior residences is to go on a tour. Seeing is believing. This is a simple way to get a feel for its culture and atmosphere; understand their levels of care; view apartment options; and to get an idea of costs and tax credits. Many tours can also be done virtually these days. There are no obligations or commitments when touring residences.
Dealing with denial and resistance is rarely a simple affair. Be patient, be proactive, reduce anxiety, educate, and offer options. All family members will benefit in the long run.