Our parents always ask us to listen, but what happens when they don’t listen to us? Your dad claims it’s not the flu, but you have serious suspicions. All the telltale symptoms are there and then some, but your loved one refuses help and will not see a doctor. Fast forward 36 hours and it’s now Sunday morning in small-town America and Dad is no better. You reiterate that Tamiflu’s efficacy drops significantly after 48 hours. Finally, three hours and one urgent care visit later, a flu diagnosis is confirmed, along with a nasty urinary tract infection and dehydration.
This and similar stories are shared by millions of family caregivers across the country. Older generations have been in charge of their own health for 50, 60, 70, and even 80 years. They may not want (or think they need) to give up control of any part of their lives. 77% of adult children believe their parents are stubborn about taking their advice or getting help with personal/medical problems. Whether it’s because they don’t want to inconvenience anyone or they think they know better, we can all agree that a loved one’s health and well-being is of utmost concern. So how do you tell someone with an 80-year wealth of knowledge that seeking medical attention is in their best interest?
What can you do when an elderly loved one refuses help?
Accept the situation.
It is what it is. When a loved one gets ill, you may have some say in the matter, but you must realize that what happens is ultimately their decision. Save yourself some stress. In this case, you suspected the flu, but were resigned to let Dad wait it out. You may be hands-in-the-air frustrated, but it’s out of your control.
Decide just how important it really is.
Now that you’ve accepted the situation, it’s important to remain vigilant. Is the situation life threatening or can it wait 24 hours? Obviously, in an emergency seek immediate medical attention.
Treat them like the adult that they are.
Respect that your aging loved one was once fully able of take care of themself. The transition from self-reliance to dependence is rarely easy. In many cases, an aging loved one’s mental capacity remains intact while physical ailments are debilitating. Make decisions about health and home care related issues together.
They were once in your shoes. It’s a tough place to be in for both of you. Landing in that sandwich generation between caring for children while also caring for your aging parent is incredibly stressful. Likewise, growing older and requiring care is not a desirable position. And no one really looks forward to going to the doctor.
Call in reinforcements.
As the old saying goes, two heads are better than one. Call a sibling or a friend to discuss the situation, then determine the best plan of action. Intervention…
Think ahead (for next time).
When your loved one is healthy and able, discuss their wishes when it comes to their future care. Having a documented plan in place for next time will make the situation easier for everyone involved. It is better to be proactive and start a “relaxed” conversation with elderly loved ones before a crisis occurs. The same type of conversation may be applied to other situations, including long term care goals, living wills, etc.
Most people would rather help someone else then receive help themselves.
In situations where a loved one refuses help, be sure to include them in the decision making. Remember that an individual has the right to refuse help, but you must weigh your responsibility as a family member or friend with the person’s ability to make his or her own decisions. Before pushing too hard, try to understand your loved one’s point of view and be respectful of their place in life.
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