Caregiver Tips: Making the "Reluctant" Client More Comfortable

Coming on the heels of our post about the “grumpy old man” client and ways to overcome the challenges of caring for an angry (or even mean) care recipient…our care team offers some related tips on helping the “reluctant” client to become a satisfied client.

dealing with unhappy elderly care recipient

What do we mean by the reluctant client? This might be the situation in which the client’s family has convinced him (to an extent) that he needs some help, or the doctor has insisted his patient get some assistance after a recent illness. Or, perhaps this is a client who has been cared for by a family member who needs to take a break, and the client is upset by this change. As a family caregiver, you might experience the reluctant family member who claims she doesn’t need your help or you may be trying to convince Mom or Dad to give a professional caregiver a try. These tips might give you some ideas in smoothing the path for your loved one and caregivers.

We generally don’t advise forcing someone in to accepting care. However, others often know there is a real need there and have legitimate concerns…and the reluctant care recipient often becomes one of the most satisfied clients over time. This is where our tips come in, because it’s all about getting past the initial reluctance to demonstrate just how great it can be to have a quality caregiver helping. Here are some tips for how to approach care for the reluctant client:

  1. Break the ice. Have a good attitude from the start and try to get a feel for what the client is feeling and how he/she is reacting to your approach. You may need to step back from being very cheery if the client is angry or upset and take a quiet approach. Other times, some humor may help break the ice. Work together with the family and other trusted persons to plan how to approach the situation to start. Sometimes, offering the client a chance to “try it out” or have some temporary help gives the client more of a feeling of control. Maybe the caregiver can be hired for a particular outing or event or to help with tasks that the client acknowledges he’d like help with, such as meal preparation, driving or light housekeeping.
  2. Find common ground. If possible, find out about the client beforehand. This can give you topics of conversation and help you to bond with the client. At EasyLiving, we developed a Daily Routines and Personal History Questionnaire for just this purpose. It really helps us arm our caregivers with the tools and information they need to provide the best care. Home care should be personalized to the individual, and you can help your caregivers to do this by giving them some information.
  3. Be a listening ear and empathize. Take the time to show you are really listening and that you understand the feelings the client is experiencing. It can be hard to hear a client’s angry tirade and complaints, but it is so important that the client feels he/she is being heard.
  4. Find the things that the client wants. The client may disagree with the fact that she needs help at home, but maybe she will admit it would be nice to have someone iron her blouses or assist with some gardening. If you can start by demonstrating your helpfulness with such tasks, this often shows the client the value in having the help and opens the door. As a family member, this is also a useful approach to convincing a parent to get help in the first place. It might be as simple as making sure no one is “available” one week to provide rides to doctors’ appointments and hiring a caregiver to help with that so the client has a chance to get to know the person and see the possibilities. As a caregiver, this is also important in the little things you do when helping. If the client has particular ways he/she likes things done, be open to them. Try to put yourself in the client’s shoes and imagine someone coming in and immediately telling you things should be done differently (or just doing them without asking).
  5. Don’t push too hard. We talk to a lot of family members who feel they know what’s best for Mom or Dad, but the parent disagrees. Be willing to start small. Acknowledge that loved ones may need time to process things and progress might be on a slower timetable than you prefer. There are a couple of great books we recommend which talk about communications between the generations and offer some great insight. They are: How to Say it to Seniors by David Solie and Another Country: Navigating the Emotional Terrain of Our Elders by Mary Pipher. As a caregiver, you might need to give your care recipient a break, step away for a minute and read his/her emotional signals. If you think you have some great ideas that would make life better for your care recipient but she refuses, allow that choice and approach it at another time.

Give us a call at 727-447-5845 if we can help with any eldercare needs or questions! Come on over to our caregiver community on Facebook to join in the discussions and share your tips or questions.