For many adult children, the natural progression of life leads them into the role of caregivers for their ageing parents. It’s a journey of love, respect, and sometimes, a dance around unforeseen challenges. One subtle yet profound challenge is resistance — a firm ‘No’ from a parent when you’re only trying to help.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the number of people aged 65 and over in Australia is projected to more than double, reaching 8.8 million, by 2057. With an ageing population, more and more Australian families are grappling with the intricacies of elder care. Among these challenges, resistance from ageing parents, especially when making decisions concerning their wellbeing, can be one of the most complex to navigate.
Why Resistance Occurs
Before diving into solutions, understanding the root cause of this resistance is crucial. Often, it’s tied to a deep-seated fear of losing independence. Having spent a lifetime making decisions, guiding children, and managing a household or career, the role reversal can be jarring. The mere thought of reliance can evoke feelings of vulnerability or even shame.
In other cases, cognitive changes or health conditions like dementia can lead to confusion, fear, or stubbornness. As per Dementia Australia, there are approximately 472,000 individuals living with dementia in 2022, and this number is expected to grow. Recognising the cause behind resistance can guide the approach in addressing it.
Strategies to Manage Resistance
- Empathetic Communication: Remember, it’s not about convincing but understanding. Engage in open conversations where you not only express your concerns but also listen to their fears and aspirations. An empathetic dialogue can lay the foundation for trust.
- Involvement in Decisions: Instead of dictating, involve them in decision-making processes. Whether it’s about choosing a care facility, medical treatment, or even daily activities, make them feel in control.
- Trial Periods: If resistance is about a particular change, like hiring a caregiver or attending a senior centre, suggest a trial period. A temporary experience might be less intimidating and can provide them an opportunity to see the benefits firsthand.
- Professional Mediation: Sometimes, external intervention can be beneficial. Geriatric care managers or counsellors, familiar with the emotional dynamics of elder care, can offer a neutral perspective and mediate conversations.
- Educate Gradually: Share resources, articles, or even testimonials of others who’ve gone through similar changes. Knowledge can be empowering and can alleviate fears stemming from the unknown.
- Ensure Consistency: In cases where dementia or cognitive decline is a concern, maintaining a consistent routine can be reassuring. Familiar surroundings, daily rituals, and regular activities can create a sense of security and reduce agitation or confusion.
- Safety First: If the resistance poses a safety risk, it’s crucial to prioritise their wellbeing. If they’re resistant to using a walker, for instance, but are prone to falls, it’s essential to explain the risks clearly and find ways to make the new change more acceptable, like personalising the walker or introducing it in a positive light.
- Seek Support: Remember, you’re not alone in this journey. Joining a support group or connecting with others facing similar challenges can provide insight, strategies, and much-needed emotional support.
Celebrating Small Wins
Amidst these challenges, it’s essential to focus on the positive outcomes, however small they might be. A successful trial period, a moment of clarity, a day without resistance – these are all victories worth celebrating. Such celebrations can act as a source of encouragement for both caregivers and ageing parents, reinforcing the idea that progress is being made.
Navigating the landscape of elder care, especially when resistance is encountered, can be emotionally taxing. But with patience, understanding, and the right strategies, it’s possible to manage resistance effectively, ensuring that ageing parents feel respected, loved, and understood.
Remember, it’s a journey, not a destination. Taking one step at a time, seeking support when needed, and always acting from a place of love and respect can make the road ahead smoother for both ageing parents and their caregivers.
With Australia’s ageing population, these challenges are set to become more prevalent. Yet, as a community, with the right resources, understanding, and approach, we can ensure that our elderly loved ones live their later years with dignity, comfort, and the care they deserve.