Even more frustrating, is when a yes changes to no.
Mom’s recent hospital visit was hard on both of us but it was an opportunity to reset her health and how she moves around in her home. Because she was admitted and stayed three nights, Medicare pays for Home Health visits which includes Physical and Occupational therapy in addition to nursing.. I can see a difference in her mobility and mental functioning already. Although her increase in mobility and engagement in life probably has a lot to do with a huge decrease in medications she took for years, medications that were never adjusted despite a significant weight loss.
The Physical Therapist (PT) made a difference in her day-to-day life on the first visit. While observing mom completing activities of daily living (ADL), he suggested two easy fixes, one in the bathroom and one in the bedroom. Simply pushing her bed closer to the wall allows her to use her walker to get completely into the bedroom instead of abandoning it at the door and then holding onto furniture to move around the bed. A fall waiting to happen. In the bathroom we added another wall grab bar and one for the toilet. These small changes make for much safer transfers and she is not exerting as much energy accomplishing these ADL’s. Conserving that energy leaves with her more energy to do the things she loves, like cooking and talking on the phone.
I wish I could say that mom was completely on board with every suggestion as soon as it was made. Some of them got an outright no before we could discuss it. Others were met with a “well, we’ll see”, ”I hope so” or “I’ll try”. Argh. Just once I would like an enthusiastic YES.
More than one professional suggested a hospital bed and I was pleasantly surprised when she agreed to it. Home for several weeks and feeling better, the yes to a hospital bed turned into a firm no once the PT brough up the subject. I was pushing for it based on how she transferred into bed. Plus, we would be set if her future at home required one. To me, it was the perfect solution and one more example of how we as caregivers often push for a solution that makes sense to us and we don’t try to understand why our loved one resists it.
In my book “Your Caregiver Relationship Contract”, I explain how intentional conversations can move someone from no to yes. It really is key, but what we need is to be empathetic and to pay attention to the motivation for the no. The aha moment came a couple of days later after I stopped encouraging the hospital bed. It came while we were working on transferring from the bed with the OT. “I can’t take one more change. That is why I don’t want the hospital bed.” It was in that moment I realized I was asking my mother to get rid of the bed she and my dad had shared for years. Moving to the hospital bed was less about not wanting to feel like she had declined and needed it and more about another loss, another change after a series of losses and changes. Giving her the space to tell me her reasons when we were both calm and hearing, really hearing the emotion in her voice convinced me that the simpler solution of pushing the bed back was the right one for now. When things change, and they will, we can re-think this decision.
Why do our parents so often say no to ideas and solutions we are convinced are the best ones?
Understanding their motivation for the no is key since it is so often based on anxiety, fear, physical health or the mental and emotional toll of one more change. If someone is worried about money, then trying to convince them to purchase a piece of medical equipment that is not covered by insurance can be impossible. Once you understand that the resistance is around cost and not using the new equipment, you can look for organizations that will loan or discount the price, making it affordable.
Since mom lost even more of her eyesight this summer and her recent hospital stay, I have come to realize that the NOs I’m getting right now are often based on fear. Anxiety at her inability to master something new since the change in her eyesight makes her fearful of changing anything, even if it will be better in the long run. Now that the medications have been adjusted and her energy and strength is returning, she is letting go of her fear and has begun to contribute to our family again. It may not seem like much, but her willingness to put the dishes and groceries away, her willingness and ability to take on dressing herself without help, things she had slowly stopped doing since the summer, are huge.
Mom just turned 89 and her resilience and renewed purpose in life are a blessing. It gives me hope and makes it easier for me to be empathetic and compassionate with her. Now, I just need to remember that she has always said no before saying yes to any change. I just need to give her time and space and understand her motivations.
Disclaimer: The material in this blog is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace, nor does it replace, consulting with a physician, lawyer, accountant, financial planner or other qualified professional.
Deb is available as a caregiver consultant. She will answer the question: “Where do I start?” and find the resources to alleviate your stress. If you would like to invest a half hour to learn how she can help you, please contact her at: Free 30 minute consulting call
Deb is the author of “Your Caregiver Relationship Contract.” This book explains how to have an intentional conversation and the how unspoken expectations can cause problems. Click here to learn more about
Click here to learn more about Your Caregiver Relationship Contract.