One of the hardest things about providing assistance to any loved one but most especially our seniors, is their resistance to our help. It usually starts out with you noticing that mom or dad aren’t keeping up the house as they used to, or they’re not eating as well, or they’ve forgotten to take their medications. You get the picture. At that point you offer to help them out but they’re response is that they are ‘just fine.’ A part of you still wants to believe that and you let it go for now. Does this sound somewhat familiar?
The key to overcoming resistance lies in the understanding that resistance is the outward manifestation of an internal and sometimes unrealized fear. With seniors that fear may be about losing control, becoming a burden, or just their own fear of aging. If you think about it you will see that you too manifest resistance when you are afraid.
We all experience resistance in our lives. We resist uncomfortable situations, conversations, and actions. Deep down we don’t feel safe about the outcome, the changes that may come as a result, or even our ability to do what we must. When we are younger we are able to push through those fears and ‘just do it.’ But not so for our seniors.
If you can stop yourself from reacting to the ‘resistance’ itself and instead address the need for internal safety, the result will be cooperation. When we feel internally safe the outcome is this: we feel life is in control, we trust our instincts and other people’s intention, we feel empowered, we are able to access our resources and know we have choices, and finally we are able to respond appropriately. Recognize that when you see your parents showing signs of aging, you too are in ‘resistance’ because you too are now feeling fear. Find a way first to ‘take the stick out of your own eye’ so that you are fully available to help them take it out of theirs. Remember where there is fear, love can not truly enter and the result will be resistance every time.
Once your have found your safety the next step then is to help them identify their fear and ask them what would make them feel safe while still allowing you to provide assistance. It is not always an easy conversation but an important one. Establishing a partnership type of relationship where all of you are collaborating for an outcome that will work for all, is part of the solution. The second is to ensure that your intention is not to control and allow the answers to come from them. The third is to validate their fears and remind them of the resources they have internally as well as externally that will allow them to continue to maintain their control. They’ll then feel they can trust themselves and you to make good decisions, recognize they do have choices and be able to take responsibility for their lives even as they accept assistance from you.
With this new understanding about ‘resistance’ and the tools to work through it to safety, you may very well find a cooperative way to assist your parents while enhancing your relationship. The journey through their aging process will be filled with the sharing of wisdom, precious moments you will cherish always, and a deep connection. What more can we ask for!