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Published January 2nd, 2013
When Elder Parents Resist Your Suggestions
By Linda Fodrini-Johnson, MA, LMFT, CMC
Linda Fodrini-Johnson is a licensed marriage, family and child counselor, a certified care manager, and is the executive director of Eldercare Services. She is an advisor on the new Lamorinda Village Task Force that will assist seniors to stay in their own neighborhoods and homes.

Have you experienced the following? You know that Mom or Dad is having problems, although he/she denies it, and won't let you help. You suspect he or she is not getting groceries, not eating well, and not going to medical appointments. When you make suggestions about getting help, your mom or dad refuses and makes excuses. When you come for a visit, he/she "doesn't want to bother you," or says "maybe later" or "I'll think about it." You leave worried and frustrated.
Sometimes learning a different approach can make all the difference in achieving the results you would like for your parents. Success happens most often when families respect the elder's right to make decisions and when all suggestions made are in line with the values of the elder. It is so easy for adult children to want something better for their parent or choose services or housing that appeals to their own likes without taking into account the parent's value system or needs.
Here are some helpful tips:
1) Sometimes cost is the roadblock. You could pay the bill for the parent as a gift. All the siblings could chip in to pay for a driver or an emergency response system. It could be as low as $30 a month, or even a no cost government entitlement.
2) Negotiate: Avoid put-down language and sarcasm. Say, "I love you, even though we disagree on this."
3) Ask, "What is stopping you?" Often there is an unrealistic fear. Give factual answers without trying to "sell an idea."
4) Explain that you are worried, so Mom or Dad can feel that this is being done for your peace of mind, not because help is needed. Use "I" messages in your communication, not "You should."
5) Tell him/her: "Your family wants to spoil you."
6) If home care is needed, start small and increase the hours of help as tolerated:
- Reassure your parent about protecting his/her privacy, fear of strangers, and fear of losing control.
- Let your parent choose the day of the week and the time of day for help to come.
- Hire a professional geriatric care manager to assist with the transition and supervise the quality of help.
- If the resistance appears to be from a cognitive deficit, dementia or mental health problem, talk it over with your parent's doctor. It could indicate that you will need legal assistance to take over the decision making process for your parent. If you are seeing neglect and feel your parent's health or well-being is at risk, you might need to call Adult Protective Services.
Loving a parent, respecting his or her dignity, finding the right combination of services to support quality of life and doing so without guidance and support, can be a journey of frustration.
For further information about professional geriatric care managers or to find a care manager in your local area, contact The National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (NAPGCM) at:www.CareManager.org or visit www.EldercareAnswers.com.


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