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The Draining Effects of "Oppositional Caregiving"

family caregiverGina has tried to get her 87 year old mother to attend weekly exercise classes at the senior center for nearly a year now. While she is convinced that her mother would benefit from the social interaction and increased physical activity, her mom is adamant that she will be embarrassed by the activity; and she’s just not going. Regardless, Gina continues to push.

A recent article in the Sierra Vista Herald examined the lack of benefits often achieved with “oppositional caregiving,” which our story’s daughter, Gina, is participating in. While family caregivers are busy providing care and assistance with activities of daily living, many are also trying to inadvertently “improve” their elderly loved ones by suggesting changes to routines, habits and lifestyle that caregivers perceive as a better way to live. However, if a senior has rejected an idea for changing the way they do things once, it is not likely that continuing to force the idea will have any positive effect.

According to article’s author, Frena Gray-Davidson, oppositional caregivers are those that are “opposed” to a current habit or lifestyle of an elderly loved one, and trying relentlessly to implement change where none is desired. While most oppositional caregivers are trying to act in the best interest of their loved ones, continued attempts to change engrained habits may actually begin to breed resentment and anger as seniors feel forced to defend their ways of life.

In order to avoid becoming an “oppostional caregiver,” Gray-Davidson suggests with beginning by trying to accept that the way things are, may just be the way the stay. Additionally, discussions should always begin in a non-accusatory manner. For instance, Gina could approach her exercise idea by suggesting her mother attend a class with her, “Mom, I love you and I want you to be active for as long as possible. I’m going to start going to a new low-impact exercise class at the community center. Would you want to come with me and try it out?” Then, her mother doesn’t feel as though she’s being asked to change her ways, but rather invited to join her daughter for an event.

However, oppositional stances may also come from just spending too much time together. Gray-Davidson states in her article that seniors can often be stubborn, and when combined with a persistent caregiver, you may be on track for disaster. To help put some space between you and your elderly loved ones, consider using a home care provider with a home care software or home care system, such as ClearCare, which can help family caregivers track senior moods and activity. Taking time away can allow you a chance to consider your elderly parents’ way of thinking, and help reduce lingering tensions.

Additionally, by tracking senior activity, eating habits and more with a home care software, or home care system, family caregivers can see if their view of how seniors act is realistic. Perhaps Gina’s mom is acting different around her own daughter, than her home aid. With a home care software, or home care system, like ClearCare, caregivers can log-in to secure portals and see if breakfast was eaten, or if Mom went out for a walk today.

While family caregivers mean well by suggesting changes for their elderly loved one, it’s important to remember that these suggestions may oft be received as uninvited advice. Be sure to take a step back and consider what you’re suggesting, how you’re suggesting it and how space from the situation may help your evaluation. While “improving” your elderly loved one may be tempting, sometimes it’s best to simply accept them for the way they are. And when you need a break, be sure to call on the assistance of a home care agency using a home care software or home care system, such as that from ClearCare, to give you both some respite.

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