So often in working with families, adult children ask me for suggestions on how to get their parents to acknowledge their deficits and accept help. The children believe their parent is no longer able to live autonomously, but is refusing to consider a supportive environment. At times, the adult children add that they have a power of attorney and believe they have the right to facilitate the move, even without their parent’s consent. That is not always true, legally speaking. In addition, forcing a change upon another is not the way to preserve a relationship, nor help another to adjust to a major change in their life.
If you find yourself in this situation, I suggest the following:
- Process and accept your own frustration. Look at your frustration at a deeper emotional level. Most likely your frustration and anger stems from the fear you feel. Understanding and accepting this will help you to communicate differently with your loved one.
- Imagine yourself in your loved one’s shoes. The frustration and fear you are feeling is most probably identical to what your loved one feels. Imagine if someone was telling you to leave your home. You would be scared at the thought of losing control of your life too and dig your heels in and deny and resist help.
- Don’t pull the “Power of Attorney” card. Bringing up a position of power is not going to decrease defenses and open up the lines of communication. In fact, it will do the opposite.
- Engage the services of outside professionals. Sometimes, including geriatric care managers, social workers, psychologists, physicians or other professionals can help to open up the lines of communication and mediate the discussions between family members.
- Explore your state or provincial laws regarding your legal options. Just because you may have a power of attorney, does not necessarily give you the right to initiate a relocation. Individuals, even when they are at risk or incapacitated, still have the legal right to advocate for themselves and make their own decisions. Adults have the right to make risky and unsafe decisions assuming they understand fully the risks and consequences.
- Don’t rush things. It takes time for people to accept their limitations and make changes in their lives. If a doctor tells you, “you must lose weight”, do you leave the doctor’s office and immediately start a diet and lose the weight? Probably not. People need time to process changes in their lives and make adjustments in increments. Be sensitive to that.
- Make small changes first. Whenever possible, start with small changes, like bringing in help a few hours a week, or visiting more often, to give your loved one time to see that the assistance is valuable.
- When possible, let your loved one decide that the time is right. All people do better with change when it was a change they initiated, not one that was forced upon them. Try to guide conversations, but allow your loved one to determine when the time is right.
- Look at options together. You may need to do the initial research on the options available for a move, but do not make decisions autonomously. Include your loved one in the decision making process at every level possible.
- Understand that a crisis may need to occur. Unfortunately, it is often a crisis, like a major fall or hospitalization that facilitates a change. It is not ideal, but it is often the reality.
If you find yourself in this challenging situation, enlist the support of friends, family, or a professional to guide you in navigating this difficult situation. Feel free to contact me to discuss your personal situation at: email@example.com