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Seniorgram: Giving or receiving help is not always easy

Roseann MartocciaRoseann MartocciaFamily members are most often well-intentioned when they converse with their parents or other loved ones around the topic of the need for help or support. That said, it is often not an easy conversation and one which does not have ready answers. Sometimes the person for whom the help is intended seems resistant or not open to wanting or needing help, which leaves family concerned and not sure about what to do next.

Dr. Leslie Kernisan offers the following suggestions for when such a situation presents in your family. It is hard to plan for changes that aging and changing health brings and there is no silver bullet. A place to start is to identify health and other issues, but that is just the starting point. Here are some elements to consider when working through such family situations. It may take many conversations to fully understand what will work and incremental steps rather than a wholesale change. However, if an unexpected medical event occurs, things may change more rapidly.

Remember to pay attention to where your parent or loved one is coming from and understand their emotions and perspective. While you may be well-intentioned and concerned, it is difficult to be in a place of asking for or needing help and disruptive to your parent’s or loved one’s lifestyle and usual habits. This is a big change for them.

What are the tradeoffs? That is, what is important to the person in relation to balancing their safety with their autonomy? Discussion around what is important to the person usually helps to sort out an approach that will work. Does the person want to live in their own home as long as possible and be in control of their life, living as they have been? Quality of life can mean so many things, including minimizing pain, spending time with family and friends, and enjoying activities that are not stressful or burdensome.

It is also important to consider the possibility of cognitive function, especially when cognitive changes are subtle and not recognized or diagnosed as such. Even when a person has been diagnosed with early dementia, it is challenging to figure out when it has progressed to the point that it is a factor in resisting help or tipping the scale between risk and independence. Lastly, don’t assume that your parent or loved one has cognitive loss because he or she is making health or safety decisions with which you don’t agree.

Planning for the changes that aging brings is a bit of misnomer. Rather, it is a process of recognizing that things are changing, adjusting and readjusting as you go along with your parent or loved one.

Read more by Leslie Kernisan, MD, at

The path might be difficult, but you’re not alone

If you would like to explore resources and options for yourself or a loved one, contact LifePath by phone at 413-773-5555 or 978-544-2259 or via email.

Read more about support for caregivers.