As an Aging Life Care specialist, part of my job brings families to my office here in New Rochelle for a consultation. A son or daughter, sometimes a spouse, present the situation. I ask questions, lots of questions and we move forward from there.
With the questions asked I am able to get a broad understanding of the situation. With additional queries, I start to recognize the issues at hand. But, as I always say to adult children, spouses and other relations, we can come up with the best ideas, but they are only as good as the willingness of the person missing from my office.
This willingness is frequently accompanied by resistance from that member not present. It often makes perfect sense for mom not to be present, especially when there is a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or some other kind of dementia. “Why come to see her? I have no problem.” So rather than meet with negativity and the potential for upset, I meet alone with family members. The take away, are the strategies that are developed in the course of our meeting.
Here are three of my favorite strategies for engaging a family member: 1. A strength based approach: speak to a parent by engaging them and asking them what they think. You may receive a negative response, go back and rephrase your request. Once they see their opinion matters, it lessens their resistance to accept what it is you are suggesting. 2. Make open ended suggestions: the more a spouse feels tied in to their decision the less the chance of acceptance. The idea of a “trial period” for home care or a transition to a senior residence, will make that idea have a better chance of succeeding. 3. Put the blame on you: ask a parent to do something not because they need a companion, but because it will give you relief from worry.
So, the family member of concern missing from my office in New Rochelle, is often not a bad thing. It allows for this Aging Life Care specialist to ask many more questions and permits for more candid answers. The net result being strategies that have a better chance of succeeding.