By Elizabeth Guttenberg, LMSW, Senior Care Advisor
Q: My mom lives alone. She is in failing health and cannot take care of herself, but she won’t move! How do I convince her that she needs to go to a nursing home?
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but no matter how well-intentioned you are, you cannot control your mother’s decision-making. And although she may not be making the best decisions of late, unless she is deemed incompetent by a court of law (which can happen with a dementia diagnosis, but isn’t very common), they are still hers to make. So how can you influence her decision-making in a positive way that will encourage her to preserve her safety as well as her autonomy? Here are some tips:
- Do your research. You may also consider accompanying your mother to her doctors’ appointments to determine whether nursing-home level care is recommended. Depending on her diagnosis and prognosis, there may be other levels of care that are more appropriate for maximizing her independence while keeping her as safe as possible. Resources such as local area councils on aging, senior centers, and home care agencies can provide valuable in-home and community support. I also highly recommend that you read Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal, which addresses ways to approach such challenges, while optimizing the dignity of your loved one.
- Have an honest conversation with your mom. Start by asking how she feels about the recent changes in her health and what she thinks would make her more safe and comfortable. This may sound simple, but you’d be surprised how few people actually ask their aging loved ones about their wishes. Listen carefully to her response. It may not be what you want to hear, but it will probably provide insight into where her reluctance is coming from.
- Be empathic. Speak directly about your concerns, but show that you care when she talks about hers. Making big changes is hard. Imagine how jarring it would be to move from a house you’ve lived in for forty years. Or to let someone cook and clean for you after you’ve been the head honcho homemaker for your entire adult life. Acknowledge these challenges and include your mom in the problem-solving process as you discuss options that would let her maintain her quality of life along with safety.
- Be patient. Don’t expect your mom to change her mind after one conversation. Back off if needed and give her time to think things over. Should she trip on the stairs or boil the kettle dry before you bring up the topic again, don’t berate her – or yourself. Simply use the incident as a way to illustrate why you are concerned about her living situation.
- Seek professional help. If you need help sorting out the options for care, seek the expertise of a Care.com Care Advisor or an Aging Life Care Professional (typically a social worker or nurse) who can help guide you and your family through possible next steps. Caregiver support groups also offer a plethora of information and guidance from both professionals and family members who are facing caregiving challenges such as resistance to change.
Need tips on caring for the caregiver? Contact a Care Advisor at Care.com. We are master’s-level social workers specializing in adult and senior care. Call us today at (855) 781-1303 or email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org