Tips on handling a prickly response to - 'you need help'

Does your parent get all prickly and refuse help when you mention the topic of them needing help? Do they close up and refuse to talk about the issue? We have some great tips on handling prickly parents who don’t want to acknowledge they need help.

It’s certainly a frustrating time for everyone. You love them and want to look after them and can’t understand why they are refusing your ideas and offers to help. Sometimes your frustration can turn to anger and resentment if you don’t understand where they are coming from. Here are some strategies for helping so neither of you get offended.

Take a minute to try and see things from your loved one’s perspective.

• They are used to being in control of their own lives.
• They are used to making their own choices.
• They are used to giving you advice or even telling you what to do. Not the other way around.
• They often think that admitting they need help is the beginning of the end.
• They may feel that if they acknowledge not being able to cope with life that they will be abandon by loved ones and thrown on the scrap heap.
• If they are still with their partner they probably fear being split up if they acknowledge they can’t manage.

When people respond with a prickly attitude to a kind act it usually means they are fearful of something. Putting logic aside, can you think of anything your loved one could be fearful about. Now don’t think in logical terms because fear if not logical. Could any of the above suggestions possibly be lurking in your loved one’s mind?

When you gently probe into the reasons behind someone’s negative action you’ll nearly always find fear. The one thing that is common to all humans is that they all want to be loved. It may take a lot of patience and gentle investigation but finding out why your loved one is so against a suggestion is always the best step toward really giving the person the help they need.  

Remember the bigger the resistance the bigger the fear.

I’ve always liked the 1.2.3 approach.

  1. Start with empathy. Acknowledge them rather than being dismissive or impatient.
    "I know it must be very challenging forgetting things all the time. It must frustrate you and even upset you. I remember when I ………., I found it so frustrating that people didn’t seem to know how hard it was for me."
  2. Ask a question to try and discover the main emotion that is causing the negative responses. 
    "Do you ever get frustrated?"
  3. End with acknowledgement of their achievements
    "You know Mum I remember when I was having trouble with Maths at school and you were so supportive. I really appreciate it when you are supportive of me."

You may have to use this method several times until you uncover why your loved one is resisting help.

Saying things such as…”Oh you’re just being silly” or “ just stop worrying” or “ you have to acknowledge that you just can’t do it one your own now”. All these statements are disempowering and may even be taken to be threatening. The old “Be good or else” approach is just not helpful.

Most people aren’t happy about change and especially change that they feel is being imposed on them. Elders like the ‘known’ things.  

Tips for introducing In-Home Care

  1.  Ask the proposed Caregiver to come and meet your loved one while you are present.
     A short chat over a cup of tea will reassure Mum/Dad that the Caregiver isn’t a strange, horrible person with two heads.
  2.  Start with a 1 – 2 hour service (preferably while you are still in the house) to help acclimatise Mum/Dad to having someone else in their home.
  3.  Slow and steady is the best approach. Try and make the service at least once a week at the same time on the same time so your parent get’s familiar with the routine.
    It won’t be long before the whole family will be saying, ‘how did we ever manage without ….”

Taking time to break down the resistance to accepting help, is important. Introducing a Caregiver before that resistance is dealt with, will mean that you’ll never find a Caregiver that will make Mum/Dad happy.

NOTE: The later you leave the subject of introducing help to your loved ones, the harder it can be for them to accept help. Too soon can put up walls too.

Be vigilant and don’t be afraid of having the pre-emptive talk of “One day Mum you’ll need help, we all will. You know they are some great options out there. Have you ever thought of having someone come in and help you with…..”

Be patient, loving and persistent and you may find the transition of the relationship with your loved one will be a wonderful one. For more suggestions download our e-Book.

Don't wait for a disaster to trigger the search for help, take a look at the lovely Caregivers who have registered with us and find the one right for your loved one today.


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In Home Care Services Direct does not employ, recommend or endorse any caregiver or care seeker. Nor is it responsible for the conduct of any caregiver or care seeker. In Home Care Services Direct provides information and tools to help care seekers and caregivers connect and make informed decisions. Each individual is solely responsible for selecting an appropriate caregiver or care seekers for themselves or families and for complying with all appropriate laws in connection with any employment relationship they establish. In Home Care Services Direct does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment or engage in any conduct that requires a professional licence.

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