3 Ways to Deal with Family in Denial About Seniors Needing Help

family in denial about seniors

When family doesn’t believe your senior needs help

Family caregivers are often frustrated by relatives who are in denial about their older adult’s declining health. Whether it’s about Alzheimer’s, fall risk, or post-stroke recovery, their denial can make you feel angry, stressed out, and frustrated.

 

Why are they in denial?

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Denial is a coping mechanism that gives you time to adjust to distressing situations.”

Asking someone to change how they see your older adult threatens their whole world. That’s usually why people fall back on denial.

It’s safe and comfortable to pretend that everything is fine and nothing is changing. For some, denial is a subconscious way to ignore the fact that their parent is declining. For others, it’s a way to avoid taking on caregiving responsibilities.




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3 ways to deal with family in denial

1. Stay calm and be the bigger person
Family in denial about seniors needing help are incredibly frustrating. Even if you really don’t want to bite your tongue, it helps to stay calm and be the bigger person.

Do your best to be kind and understanding when speaking with someone in denial. Showing anger or being sarcastic will only make them dig their heels in deeper or feel justified in resisting.

2. Be ready with educational information
Sometimes denial comes from not fully understanding the situation. Give them educational information that explains your older adult’s condition, typical symptoms, and the type of care they’ll most likely need.

For example, your brother may have no idea how Alzheimer’s or dementia affects people besides the stereotypical memory loss or confusion. So, he takes mom’s side when she insists that she’s still perfectly capable of driving her car.

Rather than arguing, show him the doctor’s report stating that she should no longer drive because of her advancing Alzheimer’s. And, point him to trusted sources of information about Alzheimer’s and dementia – like Alzheimer’s Association or here on DailyCaring.

3. Meet together with an expert
Some family members may not believe you, but might listen to an impartial expert. Offer to go together to talk with the doctor about your dad’s health and care needs. Or, invite a geriatric care manager, elder mediator, or spiritual leader who understands the situation to attend a family meeting.

 

Bottom line

It’s not fair that you have to be the voice of reason on top of everything else, but these 3 techniques will help convince family members that your senior needs caregiving help.

If you can’t break through someone’s denial, you can at least move on and make decisions without their input, knowing you did your best to help them understand.

 

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By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: Care Compare


3 Comments

  • Reply March 19, 2017

    Donna

    If the family’s in denial, how do you have a caregiver?

    • Reply March 20, 2017

      DailyCaring

      Great question! The article is directed at the family caregiver who is trying to convince other people in the family that the older adult needs more help. Often, there’s a primary caregiver who sees the decline, usually because they see the older adult frequently. Other family members who aren’t close to the situation are more likely to be in denial that the decline is happening. That can cause disagreements about hiring in-home caregiving help or considering assisted living.

  • Reply November 10, 2015

    Peter Kang

    I’ve actually written something similar to this article as well. There are definitely other signs that you should check out as well. For example, if you notice and emptier than usual fridge or lots of spoiled food, it might be a sign that your loved one isn’t eating properly because they’re unable to go outside. This can also lead to a decline in physical health and your loved one might look more frail.

    I definitely agree with you that as a caregiver for your loved one, educating yourself is one of the best things to do! There are tons of great resources out there and many of them are free.

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