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'Help, They're Fighting My Help!'

Jason Resendez, Next Avenue’s resident expert, and President and CEO of the National Alliance for Caregiving, tackles your caregiving questions

By Jason Resendez

This column regularly appears in Next Avenue's new caregiving newsletter, The 24/7 Caregiver. Sign up here.

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Q: How do you handle elder family members who fight your help?

April C.

A: Caring for aging parents, family, or friends can be a difficult and rewarding experience. In fact, more than half of family caregivers report their role as a caregiver gives them a sense of purpose or meaning in life, according to research from the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP.

However, this sense of fulfillment doesn't erase the reality that caregiving can be a tough and daunting job, especially in the face of resistance from the very people you are trying to help.  

Reflecting on your question reminded me that asking for help is hard for many of us. It's not easy to transition from a state of independence to feeling like you are reliant on the assistance of someone else.  

As a new dad, I often think about my son's future and the possibility that someday he might be helping me in ways that I'm helping him now. How would I want him to handle my resistance? 

After more than a decade working at the intersection of caregiving and patient advocacy, I know there's no easy fix for this issue but here are few tips that might help: 

  1. Acknowledge your family members' feelings. It's important to remember that your loved one is likely feeling a range of emotions, including fear, anxiety and anger. They may be resistant to your help because they don't want to lose their independence or because they don't think they need it. Try to be understanding and compassionate and let them know that you're there to support them. 
  1. Be patient. It may take time for your loved one to accept your help. 
  1. Seek professional help. If you're struggling to handle the situation on your own, don't be afraid to seek professional help. A healthcare provider, therapist or social worker can provide you with guidance and can help you develop strategies for navigating your situation. One place to start is your local Area Agency on Aging which you can learn about here.  
  1. Remember that you're not alone. Caring for aging parents, relatives or friends can be a lonely experience. It's important to remember that you're not alone, and that there are many resources available to help you. There are support groups for caregivers, and there are also online forums where you can connect with other caregivers. Here’s a place to start from my friends at AARP.  
  1. Take care of yourself. Make sure you're getting enough rest, eating healthy foods and exercising. 

Caring for a loved one can be challenging whether they resist your help or not. Your patience and empathy will be important strategies for working through these challenges. As former first lady Rosalyn Carter once said, "There are only four kinds of people in the world. Those who have been caregivers. Those who are currently caregivers. Those who will be caregivers, and those who will need a caregiver."  

Have a caregiving question? Ask the expert.

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Jason Resendez is the President and CEO of the National Alliance for Caregiving, where he leads research, policy, and innovation initiatives to build health, wealth, and equity for America’s 53 million family caregivers. Jason is a nationally recognized expert on family care, aging and the science of inclusion in research. In 2020 he was named one of Next Avenue's Influencers in Aging. Read More
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