Overcoming Resistance by Senior Loved Ones to the Care They Need

Family caregivers experience at one time or another senior loved ones who don’t want to do what they are being asked to do. This resistance could lead to aggression and even injury for them or a caregiver.

There are many instances throughout the day when personal care is needed or another task needs to be completed when our seniors just don’t want to do it for one reason or another.

In general, if we can wait a little bit and try again, we might just get a better outcome. After letting our seniors do something else, distracting them with something they enjoy, getting a snack or a drink and then returning to the task that needs to be done, we may find our senior loved one ready and less resistant.

Our approach to them, especially if we think it may be something that will be met with resistance, is very important. Getting all the implements ready, clearing the way, getting a chair and talking calmly will help gain their trust and speed the task along.

Being prepared will be half the battle.

Frustration Often Breeds Resistance

If we are frustrated, tired, angry, fearful of their reaction and get short tempered, we are more likely to be met with resistance because they are picking up on your own attitude.

Calm voice, gentle movements, clear directions and a smile will help you and them.

Try to understand what might be motivating their resistance – are they sad, scared, depressed over loss of independence, in pain, fear of expense, or suffering from memory loss impeding daily care?

Understanding is just the first step.

Let’s talk about some common caregiving areas that can be met with resistance in your senior loved one.

Resisting Dental Care and Daily Tooth Brushing

Who would really want someone else (outside the dentist’s office) to push a toothbrush around in their mouth?

That’s what happens for some seniors on a daily basis. Perhaps they don’t remember to do it themselves, have decided they don’t want to do it or just can’t remember the steps to finish the task at hand and need someone to do the brushing for them. Maybe they have had a lifelong fear of the dentist and don’t want to visit one now either.

Unfortunately, when someone else tries to brush your teeth or use instruments in your mouth it can be very uncomfortable. Not only is that person violating your senior’s personal space when they get close enough to hold the brush or tool in a senior’s mouth, but they may be going too fast or too hard with the motion of the brush hoping to finish the job more quickly.

This can be scary, not to mention painful.

This leads to resistance and at times an even more aggressive response, fighting back against the caregiver. Many seniors close their lips and teeth so that the toothbrush or dental tools won’t even cross into their mouths. Biting and spitting is not uncommon either.

Work Together to Overcome Resistance

So how can family caregivers overcome this resistance in order to be sure that their senior loved ones dental health and in the end their physical health is maintained?

Remember, poor oral care can lead to painful problems that can result in difficulties chewing and poor nutrition. We don’t realize how important oral care is to our health, as not caring for teeth and gums can be the start of an overall physical decline.

It is a good idea to let your senior do as much for themselves as they can. Maybe they can hold the brush while you put on toothpaste and get started with the brushing. Then you can finish it up. Giving them a special cup to hold on to while you brush may give them the sense that they are helping. Sometimes a wider handle brush can allow them to get a better hold for themselves.

Positioning yourself at their level, not standing above them, will help – maybe you can both sit on a chair facing each other.

Offering instructions, explanations and words of encouragement helps too. If there is a better time of day to do the tooth brushing, do it then. Don’t brush when they just woke up and are not fully alert or if they are ready for a nap. Selecting the best mood and level of alertness will help make the task go more smoothly.

Will it help for you to be the role model and brush your teeth first or at the same time?

An electric toothbrush could make the job easier, allowing you to get more of the teeth cleaned before the resistance sets in.

Getting an annual dental checkup is also important for proper dental health. Find a dentist and hygienist who are skilled in caring for elders, who won’t make you wait too long, and can work in a calm manner for the best interest of your senior.

Resisting Home Care Providers

Having strangers in their home can often lead to resistance to home care providers for many seniors.

Sometimes it is the spouse of the person who needs care who can be resistant, believing the caregivers aren’t needed, are too expensive or that they, themselves, aren’t seen as doing a good job and will now be usurped.

Family caregivers need to discuss the reasons caregivers are needed with the adults in the home (person needing care and spouses). Try to have everyone agree it is important to get assistance and reassure your senior that this person is skilled and trustworthy. Again, knowing their concern and trying to work through it might help you ease the way.

Introduce the new person and let them spend some time together so your senior can get to know them before the start of personal care. That often will help put your senior loved one at ease. It is important that this person is accepted and there is some rapport built so that you can breakdown any perceived barriers to receiving care from a stranger.

It will also be important that your senior be prepared if the home care agency sends a replacement of the usual care provider. It might be best to postpone care for a day if there might be a problem with accepting a new person in the home, especially if you aren’t able to be there to smooth the transition.

Resistance to Safety Warnings, Such As No Driving

Knowing your senior is doing something that could be dangerous for them or others, such as driving when they are no longer safe, might be one of the scariest concerns for family caregivers.

It is also one of the hardest behaviors to overcome. Telling a senior loved one they can no longer be independent and drive themselves wherever they want to go, when they want to get there, because they aren’t safe behind the wheel doesn’t go over well.

Seniors refuse to give up some dangerous habits that could put them in harm’s way due to quickly declining abilities. Driving, climbing ladders, getting on the roof, operating power tools, cooking, or doing other things that can be very harmful for aging seniors.

It might be a case of not realizing or remembering that some of these tasks are now out of their reach.

Their Care is Worth Our Effort

Keeping seniors safe is a main goal and one for which family caregivers often need to overcome resistance.

Taking away the keys, disabling the vehicle, unplugging the stove, and removing the ladder or tools from the house might help to keep them safe — at least until you can help them realize the danger in what they want to do.

No matter why your senior refuses to comply with your goals for them or how they may react, some things need to be completed. No one wants seniors to be hurt. Understanding why they are reacting in a certain way and trying new techniques and approaches to completing daily tasks will help you care for them without as much resistance.

Family caregivers may need to get creative to overcome the resistance of their senior loved ones so that their health and well-being can be protected.

Sure, it may be difficult and emotionally draining — but their health and safety is worth it!

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