"Worry about yourself. You look sicker than I do."
"This happens to everyone at my age."
"I'm fine but if you keep nagging me, you'll make me sick."
I've always thought "Why do parents refuse help?" is the wrong question. We might be more successful at keeping parents safer if we questioned ourselves first:
· Why SHOULD my mother accept my help? What have I done to assure her it's safe to do so?
· Have I discussed the issues with her gently? Tried to involve her in the decision making (if she's able)? Or do I get angry if she doesn't accept my solution?
· How have I assured her that I will respect her independence and dignity and do everything I can to help her maintain both?
If you think about it from Mom's perspective, her reluctance is natural: Behind every "I can handle it" is a fervent desire to remain in control and a realistic fear that if you know something is wrong, you'll feel obligated to solve the problem and your solution will change her life forever - not necessarily to her liking. She's right. If her safety is at risk, do it anyway.
Start with the premise that our parents rarely deceive us out of malice or to cause us anxiety or pain. Most elders learned self-reliance as children. Many helped support their families at an early age; some faced anger or shame if they complained about weakness. Not only was it unheard to leave work for a doctor appointment, but treatment was so limited that most people never went to doctors except for life-threatening events.
Aging is often accompanied by a loss of independence and lifelong status as head of the family. Proud, self reliant elders feel disgraced as they become burdens on the families.
Resist the urge to "take over;" try partial intervention. Talk with Mom about whether/how much she can contribute. Strive to minimize the humiliation your parent may feel having to rely on your for assistance.
Temper love with patience--remember, this is a life-altering step for both of you.
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