Why Loved Ones Refuse Care

By Pamela D. Wilson, CSA, MS, BS/BA, CG

How many times do we express a concern and the person to whom we’re speaking offers a suggestion? How many times does our mind immediately dismiss the suggestion rather than being curious and asking more questions? It’s human nature to prefer to vent and complain, rather than solve our own problems. There are even times when we become irritated with the person offering the suggestion when they are only trying to help.

If this closed-minded response exists with us in the normal course of life why do we expect the situation to be different when conversing with a friend or family member who has health concerns or with a parent who has care needs? Regardless of our age, our response to change or suggestions depends on our level of self-esteem and willingness to accept and implement new ways of thinking and actions. None of us want to be questioned about our ability to perform day to day activities, the way we manage our financial matters, choosing friends, the frequency of social activities, family relationships, our health, weight, or exercise frequency.

Yet it’s exactly these areas, that when we age, that become critical to maintaining independence. If we refuse to pay attention to these areas of our lives when younger, guess what? We become our aging parents who currently refuse suggestions and resist care. We create a future for ourselves that we experience with our aging parents today that results in frustration and struggle.

We all want choices, the ability to decide where we live, and who we allow into our lives. As we age if we have early patterns of poor financial management, ignoring our health, and other behaviors that have a negative effect on our life, our retirement years will be no different. Our lives are self-created and while we may want to blame others, there is no one to blame but ourselves.

Chronic health issues begin when we are younger: high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol. By the time we age, if we have not been proactive to address these concerns, these diagnoses that we ignored can have a significant effect on our daily life resulting in significant heart concerns, dementia, kidney, liver or other physically debilitating concerns. In our youth and most of our adult lives, we feel invincible.

Our parents felt the same way until that unexpected event: the hip fracture, heart attack, car accident, stroke, or other life changing event. The idea of life interrupted and becoming a caregiver never occurred to us until the reality of a parent needing care becomes a daily conversation. How many of your phones ring multiple times in the same day and it’s a parent or a loved one called to ask a question or for reassurance? The best way to discuss resistance to care is to have the discussion early when there are no health concerns. Unfortunately, we’re not a society that chooses to acknowledge that care will be needed when older and these discussions are absent until a need arises.

Now we are faced with having uncomfortable conversations that our aging parents or loved ones resist. It’s important to understand the foundation of the resistance to support honest conversations that arrive at solutions. It’s important that we also take this advice to heart because one day, we will be in a similar position as aging parents and loved ones.

Here are 10 Tips to Understanding Why Suggestions Fall on Deaf Ears:

  • We’ve become set in our ways, our life seems to be working, and we see no reason to change. Wearing rose colored glasses has become comfortable, that is until that “one thing” totally turns our life upside down. We lose a job, a spouse, or have a heart attack because we chose to ignore those little warning signs. We noticed that our parents seemed to be struggling but didn’t want to become involved because then we would be obligated to remain involved. Surprise – we are now a caregiver for a parent or loved one. Ignoring those little “nagging signs” rarely results in positive outcomes. By being attentive to the small details we are often able to prevent or avoid more significant issues.
  • We fail to believe that changing circumstances require us to reconsider our daily activities and routines. This is similar to clients telling me, “the only way I’m leaving this house is feet first.” When something forces me to change I’ll “deal with it then.” We expect others to rescue us, many parents say, “our kids will take care of us,” without having asked the kids if they are willing or able to provide care. Change is part of life. By becoming more accepting of change rather than resisting we are better able to cope with the changes rather than relying on others to solve issues that we create. Being self-reliant supports having more choices, versus limitations, in our daily lives.
  • We prefer to deny or hide our frailties rather than find ways to resolve them resulting in mountains to climb versus a molehill that could have been easily conquered. For example, walking distances becomes difficult, we tire easily so we avoid activities with others that would show this frailty and as a result we become isolated and depressed. Why? Are we overweight? Do we sit all day working or watching television? Did we ignore the doctor’s suggestion for physical therapy or knee surgery?How do we now address all of the negative consequences we created? While addressing frailties may be uncomfortable, the consequences of not making needed changes may present more challenges that may be more difficult to reverse. Be open minded and embrace changes that have the potential to improve your life.
  • We feel it’s a hassle, too much trouble, or too much effort to change a behavior. While this may be our first reaction, how many of us truly take the time to identify the consequences of “no change versus change” so that we are able to make a thoughtful decision? The more we learn to try new activities and embrace new though patterns, the more flexible and open minded we become. It’s these traits that will serve us well when we are older and must make changes in our lives due to changes related to aging.
  • We refuse to spend money on products or services we feel we don’t need in favor of instant gratification. Why save for retirement when social security and Medicare will pay for my care? (Note: this is a very faulty belief.) We’d rather visit Starbucks and spend $5 on a cup of coffee everydaybecause this makes us feel good and we like the routine. What is the benefit for us today of placing my coffee money, beer money, or cigarette money of $150into a savings or investment account each month? The benefit may be living in your home versus a nursing home. The benefit may be having more choices, versus limited choices, about your daily life.
  • We don’t want to be judged by others who we view as giving us unsolicited, inaccurate, or poor advice. The solution: stop venting and complaining to others. We made our bed, we made choices that resulted in where we are today. Stop asking others to rescue us—we have to rescue ourselves. If you’re an aging parent consider the excessive demands you are making on your adult children and other family members. If you’re an adult child, grow up and stop relying on your parents to financially and emotionally support you. If you don’t want to be judged, stop judging others. Take control of your life path by investigating and evaluating information, and planning to create the life you desire.
  • We don’t want others to think we need helpor see our weaknesses yet we like others to see that new car we bought.What will people think if they see me walking with a walker or shopping at the store with a caregiver? Hmm, others may think that you are wise to hire assistance to support your independence. Or that you were wise to plan financially to be able to afford assistance. Or that you were able to buy a new car—that is if you’re not spending money that you don’t have. If what others think about you hinders you from making rational decisionsthis may be a longstanding life pattern. It may be time to see a counselor to determine why the approval of others is so important and to find ways to meet your needs without seeking the approval of others.
  • We dismiss the expertise of experts who actually may know more than us because we fail to realize the value.How many of us use CPAs to complete our income taxes or use financial planners to plan for retirement? Then why would we not retain the services of an aging or eldercare expert to plan and make decisions about future care for ourselves or our aging parents?You didn’t have any training to be a caregiver, didn’t think about being a caregiver, and were thrust into the role without being asked. How is that going? There is wisdom in seeking the advice of others who are experts—consulting an expert may save you time, money, and frustration.
  • We’re afraid that if we listen to and consider suggestions we may have to take actions that we won’t like or we may hurt someone’s feelings if we disagree. Listening to the suggestions of others has no cost, except for the opportunity you give up if you fail to at least listen. Not all advice will be relevant to your situation, there’s no need to apologize. It’s up to you to decide relevancy and it’s better to be open minded to consider other options than to be close minded and have options removed. An example of this is a parent who refused to install a grab bar in the shower. The parent falls and breaks a hip, and then is unable to return home and has to live in a nursing home for the rest of his or her life. That $29.99 grab bar today looks good in comparison to the $7,000 a month being paid for nursing home care. Being open minded and considering options is wise not foolish. Preventative actions that may seem costly today have the potential of avoiding costly care in the future.
  • We can’t see the forest through the trees – sometimes we are overwhelmed. In all life situations, we don’t know what we don’t know. We fail to ask a question that would have saved us from making an error. Sometimes we don’t know who to ask or where to turn. At other times we feel we can’t take in more information, add one more project to our list, or try something different. This is normal. Life is filled with overwhelming situations. Rather than struggle, seek the advice of an expert in any field who can provide information and education to allow you to focus on solving the issue at hand rather than continuing to struggle without making positive progress.

By understanding why loved ones may resist suggestions about care families may be better able to have honest discussions to solve reliance on family caregivers being the only option. Many parents expect adult children to drop everything and come to the rescue. This is no longer always a practical or realistic solution. Care options exist but only if these options are discussed early enough to support a sequential plan to address increasing care needs.

Pamela D. Wilson, MS, BS/BA, CG, CSA, Certified Senior Advisor and National Certified Guardian is a caregiving expert, advocate, and speaker supporting family caregivers with decision making and planning and professional caregivers to become more effective in serving clients by increased awareness of the broader challenges of caregiving.

©2018 Pamela D. Wilson, All Rights Reserved

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