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How can I get my family member to accept help?

While many services exist to help older people and adults with disabilities, the person who needs help may see the service as an invasion of privacy, a loss of independence or a waste of money. Many adults resist having strangers come into their home, do not want to think about attending an adult day program or consider moving into a senior housing community, for example.

Here are a few suggestions that others have found helpful in making these transitions easier. The first step is to listen to and acknowledge your family member’s fears and reasons for not wanting assistance. Express your understanding of those feelings. If possible, get your family member involved in choosing the in-home aide, adult day program or residential facility. Having a ‘say’ will help your family member to feel more comfortable with the decision.

Next, introduce the new assistance into your family member’s life gradually. For example, begin by having an in-home care aide come only a couple of hours each week, then add hours as your loved one builds a relationship with the worker. Similarly, you can also have your family member visit a day program once or twice or try a short-term or “trial stay” in a residential facility. Involving your family member’s primary care physician may be useful. Physicians are often seen as authority figures and your family member may be more willing to accept help that is required or “prescribed” by a doctor.

To help your family member maintain a sense of dignity and independence, express the need as yours, for your own well-being. You can explain that knowing someone else is with your family member when you are not there allows you to not worry. Make it clear that you are not abandoning him or her.

Keep in mind that as long as your family member does not have dementia or other memory loss, he or she has the right to make ‘bad’ decisions. Exercising this might make your role harder, but you cannot bully a family member into doing things he or she is not ready or willing to do. For more detailed information, read the following FCA Fact Sheets:

  • Hiring In-Home Help
  • Home Away from Home: Relocating Your Parents
  • Taking Care of YOU: Self-Care for Family Caregivers