Family Caregivers vs. Denial
When family members refuse to face the fact that their aging loved one needs help, they can create anger, stress, and frustration for family caregivers. Whether it’s a mental or physical need, or both, it’s crucial that their seniors get the care they need.
Denial is often the coping mechanism used to gain time to adjust to a loved one’s decline. People often feel anxiety or fear when trying to face changes in a senior’s condition. Denial is also used as a way to avoid taking responsibility or becoming an active caretaker for that senior. Here are some tips on how to deal with a relative’s denial.
Remain calm and take the high road
Even though you may want to respond to family members’ denial about your parent needing care by dropping a brick on their heads to encourage clarity of sight, it’s best to take the high road and stay above any agitated or argumentative response. Do your best to be calm and understanding with a person in denial. Any sarcastic or angry posture or remarks will only reinforce their stubborn or resistant attitude.
Knowledge is power
Sometimes the root of a relative’s denial is a lack of understanding the situation. Offer them comprehensive educational materials that explain what their senior is facing and what care they will need. For instance, you can ask your parent’s doctor for pamphlets or other materials. You can also find good information on the web and then share the web addresses with your relatives.
Having access to doctor’s reports and really understanding the nature of your loved one’s condition will help relatives avoid stereotypical myths and focus on what is actually needed -- like well-deserved help for your senior and for you!
Seek expert advice
Some family members refuse to acknowledge the need for help. As long as they don’t admit there’s a need, then, for them, there isn’t one. Maybe they won’t believe you entirely or, perhaps, not at all. Often, family members think caregivers are exaggerating the situation or campaigning for unneeded help. Or they might just refuse to believe whatever information you give them, but be willing to believe an impartial expert, instead.
Try to meet together with a credible expert that understands the situation such as your parent’s doctor or minister, or an elder mediator or care manager. An expert may just reinforce what you’ve already said but, for whatever reason, be perceived as more credible to a sibling or other family member. Don’t take it personally if that happens. Just be grateful that it worked and that your senior will get the care they need.
The bottom line
Is it fair for you to have to be both mediator and caregiver all by yourself? No. Try the suggested techniques to convince relatives that your senior (and you, too!) require more help. If you are unable to help family members out of their denial, then take them out of the equation and move on. If nothing else, you’ll have the relief of no longer banging your head against their denial.