In Consultation

In Consultation

Receiving with Grace - Teaching reluctant seniors to accept help

By Barry Jacobs

March/April 2008

Q: Many of my older clients and their family caregivers resist accepting help from others. How can I get them to receive the care they need?

A: For those who've spent their lifetimes taking pride in giving generously to others, suddenly being on the receiving end of care because of illness or age-related infirmity can be tormenting. Stalwart seniors frequently reject offers of help without consideration, declaring, "I don't take handouts." Their baby-boomer, adult children may be just as reluctant to accept outside help, flatly stating, "Our family takes care of its own." Despite the fact that many of these families desperately need emotional, financial, and hands-on support, their reticence to accept help serves to prove the common adage, "It's easier to give than to receive."

For many people, reaching out for and accepting help aren't seen as ways of marshaling forces to fight the good fight, but rather as tantamount to admitting weakness, being defeatist, and advertising failure. By contrast, rejecting help is regarded as a measure of one's courage and determination in battling family crises brought on by old age or disease. So, accepting help is perceived as disempowering; rejecting it is empowering.

This line of thinking often dovetails with concerns about self-identity. For those who've long occupied the high moral ground of kindly caring for others, being reduced to needing care themselves is experienced…

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