How do we get our aunt and uncle to seek the proper care they need?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
Worried sobrina asked...

We (my sister, cousins and I )have an elderly aunt who is 87 and her husband will be 89 next month. They never had any children of their own so we the nieces are the closests relatives they have. We are noticing they are not making the right decisions and any time we offer a suggestion it gets rejected. She is crippled due to arthritis and he has been diagnosed with cancer, has been going through chemotherapy and it does not seem to be helping yet it is making him very, very weak to the extreme he is not capable of walking any more.They live by themselves and they have different ladies come in and out at different times of the day. We do not believe they are getting the proper care they need. What can we do to get them to agree on our suggestions?

Expert Answers

Kay Paggi, GCM, LPC, CGC, MA, is in private practice as a geriatric care manager and is on the advisory board for the Emeritus Program at Richland College. She has worked with seniors for nearly 20 years as a licensed professional counselor, certified gerontological counselor, and certified geriatric care manager.

It is difficult when someone you love appears to be making poor decisions. This is the time for you to step back and re-evaluate your place in their lives.

Do you see yourself as willing and able to adopt these 2 elders, to make the proper decisions for them, and insure that all their needs are met? Or, do you see yourself as an advocate for them, to insure that the quality of their lives remains high for the remainders of their lives? These two roles can be polar opposites.

You also need to consider what role your aunt and uncle want you to have in their lives. It is, after all, their life.

Many older people need an advocate, someone to support them, to help them retain a former lifestyle that was meaningful, to be a liaison to the medical community, and provide assistance in getting services they need. They need someone they can talk with about their concerns who will not interfere in their decisions, but listen to them and help them reason through the best options.

What they usually do not want is someone to 'take over'. Some elders do appreciate that, if they can just sit back and let someone else make all the decisions and arrange payment. Few family members are able to 'adopt' their older relatives in this way.

If you choose to be an advocate, it will require that you not argue with them. They are not likely to discuss symptoms and physical changes with you if they know you are going to interfere or second guess.

It is a difficult decision. My advice is to do what they ask of you, rather than interject your opinions, un-invited. Be there to help them correct mistakes, and offer counsel when they ask for it. They make ask for help once they are confidant that they will remain in control.