Dear Dementia Solutions – July 2016

A Battle of Wills – How Do I Get My Mother to Accept the Help She Needs?

Dear Dementia Solutions

“How do you get someone to do something they don’t want to do? Despite our many attempts at persuasion, my mother, who has mild cognitive impairment, simply refuses to accept any in-home support services. She needs the assistance because there are no family members living in the same city as her, but continuing to battle with her over this issue is becoming increasingly frustrating. What should we do?”

 ~ At My Wit’s End


 When a loved one refuses to accept the help they need, it can be understandably frustrating for family members such as yourself. Many feel a mixture of aggravation and helplessness because they don’t want their loved one to be placed at any risk, and yet, at the same time, they don’t want their relationship to devolve into a tug of war. Remember that try as we might, we cannot force anyone, even a close family member, to do anything they don’t want to do, unless they’ve been deemed incapable of making their own choices.

This is why it’s important to know whether your mother is of sound enough mind to make these decisions for herself. This can be determined by two doctors assessing her to deem whether she’s capable of making reasonable choices relating to her finances and personal care. Despite having mild cognitive impairment, if she’s found capable of these decisions, then her views need to be respected. This doesn’t mean you cannot try to influence or guide her decision-making process, it simply means that the final say rests with her.

In many situations I would suggest considering using what I call Therapeutic Reasoning™ (learn more here) as a strategy that can be effective in helping your mother accept in-home support services. If private home care support is an option, the paid home care worker could be introduced to your mother as a visiting companion or some other identity/purpose that matches your Mom’s interests, but in reality the goal is to spark a friendship that builds into a home care support role because now your mother knows and trusts this “companion” and can begin to accept the help offered. For example, one family’s mother was a former teacher and they introduced the paid care worker as a student needing tutoring. The mother was excited to help the student!

I encourage you to keep trying to gently direct your mother towards accepting help, while doing what you can to make her think it is her idea. Remember, if your mother is capable of making personal care decisions, it’s also important to recognize that, at the end of the day, she has the right to determine how she wants to live…her sense of independence is also an integral part of her well-being. J


Caregivers Need Care – How Do I Know If I’m Experiencing Caregiver Burnout and What Should I Do About It?

Dear Dementia Solutions:

“As a caregiver, I’ve heard the term ‘caregiver burnout’ on several occasions but I don’t know how to identify it. How do I know whether I’m experiencing this type of burnout? What are some of the red flags and, once identified, how should I address them?”

~Uncertain Caregiver


Dear uncertain caregiver

Caregiver burnout is a very real experience that can tend to creep up on both professional and family caregivers quite gradually. Whether it manifests itself as heightened anxiety, recurrent feelings of sadness and helplessness, consistent exhaustion, or increased frustration (or a combination of some or all of these), it is important to identify and acknowledge the signals of burnout so that you can take action.

To guage whether you’re experiencing burnout, pay attention to your daily patterns of thought and emotion. Take stock of your own inventory by asking yourself, “How am I really doing?” Don’t be afraid of also asking family and friends for their thoughts on how you may be doing. Getting a more objective perspective from others can be very helpful in obtaining clarity about whether you may be in burnout mode.

If the alarm bells are ringing and burnout mode is in effect, I would firstly encourage you to remind yourself that you are not alone in your experience. Feelings of being overstressed, on edge and ready to boil over, are common among many caregivers. What is most important is being aware of what you are feeling and then reaching out for extra support. This may take the form of delegating certain tasks to family and friends in order to relieve the pressure on you. Community support services can also offer assistance and options such as home care support may be worth considering if you are a family caregiver. Caregiver support groups are also a great way to reflect on your caregiving journey in a safe space and to obtain advice from others on how to cope with challenges.

I always remind caregivers that, as instructed on airplanes, you must always place the oxygen mask over yourself first before helping others. The same applies to caregiving. Taking care of yourself will enable you to be a better caregiver, as will empowering yourself with the knowledge of how to identify and address feelings of burnout. I wish you the very best!


Do you have a specific question relating to dementia that you need answered? Please submit your questions by email to: [email protected]

Karen Tyrell CDP, CPCA is a Dementia Consultant & Educator for Personalized Dementia Solutions Inc. ( and the author of the book “Cracking the Dementia Code – Creative Solutions to Cope with Changed Behaviours.” She offers her expertise on dementia care through speaking engagements, workshops and by working one-on-one with families and caregivers.

The contents of this column are provided for information purposes only. They are not intended to replace clinical diagnosis or medical advice from a health professional. For any health related issue, always seek medical advice first from a trained medical professional.