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How to Encourage Your Elderly Loved Ones to Ask for Help

Nora Bouchard, an executive and leadership coach and the author of “Mayday! Asking for Help in Times of Need” explains it perfectly in an article printed in April, 2020 by CNBC. She explains that people in general are “hardwired to want to do things on their own.” We are, by nature, independent beings who want to do things for ourselves which makes it extremely uncomfortable to ask for help from others. It’s a control thing. For seniors, asking for help is pretty much admitting to themselves that they are losing control of their independence, freedom, and lifestyle. This is an incredible fear for aging adults – especially those who have not had to rely on the support of others.

There are other reasons seniors don’t like asking for help. Pride, loss of privacy, denial, and cognitive impairment can all play a part in why an aging adult has trouble asking for help. Whatever the reason, we can take steps to help seniors feel more comfortable about seeking out and receiving help from others.

How to make it easier for seniors to ask for help

  1. Do Not Approach Them with The Intention of Taking Control – Any aging adult who is experiencing difficulty in daily tasks and caring for themselves is already feeling upset and on-guard about what they are capable of doing. More than likely, they are not going to want to give up any part of their independence. If you are going to approach a loved one about your concerns, don’t do it forcefully. Start with a simple conversation about your worries and let them know how much you care about them and their safety. Start small.
  2. Remind Them of How Providing Help Fulfills You – Let your loved ones know that you want to be around and that you want to do what you can to make life easier for them. Your love and support will go a long way when an aged adult realizes that you don’t want to take over their lives but add to it and make it better.
  3. Explain What You Are Afraid Of – Explaining to your loved ones their medical and physical conditions and what kind of consequences they might face by not asking for help could motivate them to ask and receive help where it is needed. The reality of injuries from falling, unsafe driving, and safety risks from other activities could be enough to initiate the beginning of requests for support from a senior.
  4. Explain The Types of Support Available – Many seniors may not realize that there is such a variety of options of support available to them. For example, a conversation about how your loved ones need daily assistance or help with bathing/dressing and cooking could be interpreted by your loved one as ‘they need to live in a nursing home or long-term care facility.’ They may not realize that there are alternative methods of care like in-home aides who can come to their home and provide support on an on-going basis.

Communicating some of the ideas and options for help that your loved one may not be aware of can make a huge difference in how open they are to asking for and receiving the help that they need. Approach the situation lovingly, calmly and patiently. It might take some time for your loved one to let down their guard and warm up to the idea of having additional help and asking for it.