Make Suggestions with Patience and Understanding
As a caregiver, make suggestions to our loved ones receiving support out of love, concern, and a desire to make things better. Although we find that our care recipients and other family members may tend to disagree with our suggestions, it can lead to a better place if you are determined, yet patient and understanding.
Providing suggestions like a bulldozer with lots of “should” statements can escalate tension as judgments and discord build and fester. After all, how often do you appreciate being told what “you should” do?
It is easy to become frustrated and find it difficult to share concerns and practical solutions as we struggle to talk honestly and respectfully about differences of opinion. We all have differing styles of communication and responses to situations.
The key to having your shared opinions carefully considered is to acknowledge and validate how the other person must be feeling, which can include anger, disappointment, fear, and sadness. Your loved one is likely experiencing much physical and emotional pain which can sharpen their responses to your request to discuss challenging topics.
It is not uncommon for loved ones to refuse additional support and change. All of us like to be in control of our own lives and live as independently as possible. Resistance and disagreement is to be expected even from the most loving of people. As a caregiver, you can lead the discussion and impact desired change with a mix of patience and respectful persistence.
For example, my mother, who was one of the most caring and loving of human beings, had much difficulty accepting and using adaptive supports. She would often resist my suggestions for a period of time. In the beginning of our caregiving journey, I would often argue with her and try to convince her of the benefits of my suggested action. This tactic generally did not work.
Over time, I learned to listen to her concerns. I acknowledged and validated her feelings of discomfort and frustration with her physical health. I would breathe in patience and understanding and be respectful in my dialogue. Then, I would ask if she would be willing to try out my suggestion as a favor to me to see if it would work. Basically, I would ask her for permission to experiment and determine the outcome together. This would leave her feeling in control and she much more easily attempted things she would normally resist with my pushing.
The above strategy has also worked well with my caregiving clients and led to satisfying outcomes. Try it out for size the next time you disagree with a loved one who is trying desperately to maintain independence and control while navigating challenging issues associated with aging, disability, and health.