My loved one has always been independent. How can I get them to start accepting some help in the house?
CareYaya finds that families often have this difficult conversation later than they should - and it can be a big source of stress! Here, we offer our insights to help you navigate the care journey with respect and dignity among the family members.
Alzheimer’s and other dementias are so difficult because they slowly rob individuals of their freedom and independence. Over time, your loved one may not be able to do everything they once did, like cook Thanksgiving dinner, manage their finances, or even drive or bathe themselves independently. Losing these skills can be frustrating, disheartening, or frightening. Imagine how you would feel if you were told you had to ask for a ride every time you wanted to leave your house. It’s best to approach the topic of accepting help (whether that’s from a family member or someone hired), from an understanding perspective and by recognizing how difficult this could be for someone so used to being independent.
As you approach the topic, try to be diplomatic and sensitive; come from a place of understanding. This isn’t easy and you want your care partner to know that you’re on their side. You and your loved one are both in this together, and you’re trying to find a solution that works for both parties while ensuring health and safety.
Try not to set up the discussion as you vs. them.
You’re not “winning” if you force mom to accept a companion aide coming over twice a week or accept that you’re going to be driving her everywhere. The conversation will go better if you’re both on the same team. Instead of pointing out all of the ways your loved one is having trouble and then telling them they need help, try starting off on the same side. You can try something like:
“Mom, you’ve been cooking and cleaning your whole life. I want you to have a break and enjoy yourself. Why don’t we start looking for someone to do some cooking and housework for you for a change?”
Involve Third Parties to Help Persuade.
Sometimes your loved one may be more open to accepting assistance if they’re hearing it from a third party. For example, the doctor may recommend your loved one stop driving, and you could then use this and say something like, “Dr. X said you can’t drive anymore. That must be so hard to hear. I know you go to church every week, why don’t I start driving you and afterwards we can get some lunch?”
You could also frame the extra assistance as something beneficial for both parties (your loved one and the person coming over to help). You could say a ‘friend’ wanted to stop by for a bit around dinner time, instead of saying that someone is going to come over and cook dinner. It may be easier for the person with dementia to accept help if they feel as though they are contributing something to the interaction as well.
Focus on the Positives, While Keeping Them Aware of the Risks to Not Seeking Care Help.
If you have a companion aide coming over to provide supervision and socialization, you could encourage your Dad to show them something he’s proud of, like any projects he’s working on, pictures of family, or encourage your Dad to teach the aide to participate in one of his favorite hobbies.
In some cases, a “tough love” approach is necessary. You may need to say to your loved one, “I love you and I don’t want anything bad to happen to you, but I’m worried about how things are going at home. We can either call someone to help with the house and cooking, or it may be time to start looking at other housing options.” This isn’t the most desirable, but can sometimes be necessary for your loved one to remain in their home.
Include your loved one in the discussions of getting some help whenever possible. Ask them if they would feel more comfortable if the neighbor drove them to the grocery store or if they’d rather hire a companion aide. Let them choose if they want people coming over certain days of the week or hours in the day. And, let them participate in interviewing an aide to make sure your loved one can get along with them (but watch out for your loved one saying they dislike the aide just because they’re resistant to the idea of having some help around the house).
You’re the Hero! We’re Here to Help.
You know your loved one best, and you have the best idea of what approach may work best on them. Some people prefer a more direct approach, while others require something gentler or more indirect. Your loved one may want detailed information about whoever you have coming to help them. Sometimes less is more, and you can say more generally that someone will be coming over to help your Dad out with a few things around the house, as opposed to listing every task an aide will be doing. Do your best to choose strategies that you think would be the most effective in getting your loved one to accept help. Another thing to keep in mind is that the most useful strategies may change as the disease progresses.
If you are still having trouble, feel free to call or email the expert advisors at CareYaya, and we can go over more individualized strategies of getting some help into the home.