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How do I get my grandmother to accept help?

1 answer | Last updated: Jun 18, 2010
An anonymous caregiver asked...

Caring.com User - Ann Cason
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As Founder and Director of Circles of Care, Ann Cason provides caregiving, consulting, and training services to individuals and public and private organizations involved...

It is wonderful to have such a heartfelt question from a granddaughter. There are many family caregivers who wonder if getting a parent to accept help for incontinece is possible. See also:
Bowel Incontinence Care

See all 180 questions about Incontinence

However, incontinence is only one issue. Her hands are arthritic,, she can't move easily so she can't make it to the bathroom or clean herself properly. Incotinence is also a result of her general sense of collapse. She says, "I am so ashamed." In our society, approaching the end of life causes shame and fear. It is like a dance with the devil. How shameful it is to lose lose control of urine and bowels and appetite and a general sense of movement through life. Your grandmother may still have a good memory, but she has lost interest in life and living. Does she need treament for depression or does she need to process what is happening to her?
She is stubborn. "Leave me alone."she says. It is easy to anger her. Can you find someone to partner with when you go to see her? It could be another family member or a professional or clergy. You need support to stay steady when you say to your grandmother, "I love you, I want to help you, but Grandmother, You do not smell good. Your house smells bad." When she tells you to leave her alone, back off a little bit. Don't be afraid to come back again in the next hour or the next day with the same words. "I am so sorry grandmother, but I can't let you sit in your waste. You are a much loved and valuable human being. Your family cares for you. If you won't let your caregiver clean you, I will do it. I will bring a nurse to help."

Another important issue to explore is your grandmother's relationship to her caregiver. This is very delicate, but you need to find out if there is a way to support the caregiver. Is it your grandmother or her caregiver who does not want to clean her bottom? Do you need a specially trained personal care attendent to come once or twice a week to supplement the work of your dear grandmother's helper. Does your grandmother trust the caregiver? Can she support what you are trying to do or would the caregiver be afraid of being fired? Sometimes family is afraid of communicating with professional caregivers for fear that she will quit her job. One thing to take note of is the use of terminology. Nowadays, incontinence products have names more suited to adults than the term diapers, which are for babies. One of the sponsors of Caring.com which you can find on the incontinence page has a web site called Tena.us which gives many tips as well as new products.

In all ways we need to expand the world around your grandmother. We need to form a team.

The key to working with your grandmother is getting all elements in her life working together, communicating, offering support to each other, sharing the wisdom of different points of view. Then you can coax her instead of forcing. Be patient. I feel that you will be able, over time, to ease her way and yours. Please don't hesitate to write again to let us know how it is going.