Sometimes, as much as you love the person you are trying to care for, it can be frustrating when that special person doesn’t follow through with recommendations or accept your advice and support. What if the doctor recommends a special diet or a new medication but your loved one just won’t follow the new “rules?” What if you try to help with practical matters, such as banking or shopping, housekeeping, or scheduling appointments, and your loved one doesn’t accept your help or even becomes angry at you? It is easy to interpret this as “stubbornness,” and to take it personally. Taking a step back from your own viewpoint and considering your loved one’s values and personal identity might make it a bit easier to understand why your help is being rejected. After all, what seems like “stubbornness” to you might be an expression of “independence.” Your loved one may feel guilty about needing help, and not appreciate being put in the role of having to accept it. Sometimes, instead of feeling indulged and loved, too much “caring” can feel like the person is being overprotected and not treated with respect (or worse, treated like a child, when in actuality the parent). What to do?
First, acknowledge your own feelings of frustration and seek support for yourself. Second, acknowledge the feelings your loved one may have about needing care in the first place, and try to relax a bit about forcing change at too rapid a pace. Next, think about how needing help due to issues with aging or due to health problems changes how we see ourselves. It doesn’t feel good to realize that you can’t do what you used to be able to, and how “independence” may shift from being a positive attribute to being a negative one (“stubbornness”). Consider promoting the value of inter-dependence. Inter-dependence means providing support to each other. How can you let your loved one help you and still make some decisions? How can you involve others, maybe people outside the family, and share in responsibilities? How can you model for your loved one, and make “normal” for him or her, the concept of receiving support from others?
Finally, choose your battles. Understand that each person has different levels of risk they might be willing to accept. Help your loved one talk about those risks and what consequences might ensue if they are not reduced. For example, living independently when the person has mobility problems can put the person at risk for falls and injury. But in actuality, people who live in care facilities with professional supervision 24 hours per day can also fall and be injured. Maybe the living environment can be made safer. Financial resources might be at risk if your loved one is not careful about purchases or loses track of spending. But, consider what their spending habits have previously been. What about decisions regarding medical treatment? Should the person undertake a risky and invasive procedure if it might actually cause more disability? How can risks be reduced but rights respected?
Caring means learning to accept that in all areas there will be trade-offs between protection and care versus autonomy and self-efficacy. Your loved one may reject your ideas outright, or might actually be in total agreement with your ideas but reject them for reasons that seem illogical at first. If there is a crisis that needs intervention, do intervene. That is what 911 services are for. But for many people, there is time to take a more balanced approach. You can help your loved one work towards making plans for care and adjust values from independence to inter-dependence. Consultation with the professionals at Heartfelt might be one strategy you use to help balance your concerns with your loved one’s needs for dignity.