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Posted: December 13, 2004

Practical Caregiving

Ways to Motivate Your Unmotivated Loved Ones

Beth asked if I have heard from other people who want to help their loved ones do things that will improve their happiness. In fact, I have heard from many people with similar challenges, and Beth?s letter, Ruth?s letter and Lizabeth?s letter -- all of them in today?s column -- cover that subject.

Whenever someone has a physical condition that can shorten their life or make it so they can?t live the normal life they have been living, they often don?t want to face it. There are many ways to help them, but you need to be in contact with their physician so he is aware of what?s happening with their attitude. If he doesn?t know about the emotional problems, he can?t do anything to help. He can become your key ally in motivating your loved one.

Here?s what we?re dealing with:

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Dear Jean:

I?m not sure you can help me, but I hope you can. I am single, 34 years old, and work 40 hours during the week. My siblings decided that I am the one to take care of my 69-year-old father. Dad is losing his sight and won?t get out of bed when I?m not there. He?s getting weak and is very, very hard of hearing. He won?t see a doctor about any of his problems. I am getting very resentful and don?t know what to do. Have you heard of any other parents like my father? What can I do?

Beth E., Paterson, New Jersey

Dear Beth:

Your father has been able to take charge of things all his life, and now he doesn?t know what to do to make things better. He is helpless, and afraid of that situation. To be quite honest, I don?t know how I would react in his situation.

It sounds like you are going to have to take over your father?s care completely, even if you would rather not. That reluctance is a normal feeling every adult child has when it comes to their parents. You must do it, though. Call their doctor and explain the situation. You might also ask him about the possibility of counseling. Perhaps he will have suggestions about how to get your father to an appointment. Even if he doesn?t, make an appointment and do what you need to do to get him there.

You may need help from your siblings. Call them, explain that you need their help and ask them to come over to help when it?s time to leave for the appointment. Your father?s problem could be a result of a physical problem, or he may be depressed because of his situation. Either way, he needs help, and you are the one to get that help.

Do what you need to, and you will find your resentment will improve as you take charge of the situation. You feel you didn?t have any choice in the matter and that your father should be helping, but he isn?t. You ? and he ? must simply live with that fact.

When you have things under better control, you will be able to bring someone in to let you take a break and go shopping, to a movie, or something else you enjoy. You do need that time away from caregiving. Be sure to arrange that time away for yourself.

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Dear Jean:

My problem is my husband. He has emphysema and has to be on oxygen 24/7. All he does is lay in bed and watch TV. He could go out to meet his friends for coffee, or something else, but he doesn?t want to. He says he is too embarrassed because of the oxygen tubes. He?s getting weaker all the time, is hard of hearing and won?t consider help with his depression. He says he isn?t depressed but he has all the symptoms. How can I get him to start enjoying the time he has left?

Ruth G., Fargo, North Dakota

Dear Ruth:

This isn?t uncommon, but you do need to do something to help him. It sounds like he may be physically able to get up and do things. Even if he can?t, you can help him do things.

Call his doctor and explain the situation. He may be able to prescribe something that will help, and he may suggest counseling. You may have to give him the medicine, but that would be all right. Do what you can to get him to talk to a counselor. Be sure to stay in contact with the doctor so he has an understanding of what?s going on.

Is your husband strong enough to sit in a wheel chair? If he can get out of his bedroom, it might help his attitude. Personally, I think it would be very depressing to be in one room all the time and never see the rest of the house. Take one step at a time. Don?t try to take him outside the house right now, but try to get him outside his bedroom. You can work on leaving the house after he finds he likes getting outside his bedroom.

Then, would it be possible to ask his friends to drop in on him occasionally? If he finds that they are not concerned about his oxygen tubes, he might be more willing to meet them for coffee out of your home. They might even talk about the tubes with your husband and tell him that it is common for people to walk around the shopping mall with them, for example. These steps should help your husband be more comfortable about his situation ? and motivated!

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Dear Jean

I live next door to a friend with Huntington?s disease. Along with the symptoms of HD, she is forgetful, tired and unhappy. She doesn?t go out like she used to and just sits home watching her soaps. I realize that HD is not a disease I would want to face, but she must face it and get over this emotional situation she?s in. What can I do to help her get out and start enjoying life? She refuses to go anywhere when I ask her.

Lizabeth O., Atlanta, Georgia

Dear Lizabeth:

Just like the other writers in my column today, I also suggest that you, too, contact her doctor for help by explaining your concerns. If you can?t talk with him directly, leave a message with the receptionist explaining the situation. He needs to be aware of how she is reacting to having HD.

Then, consider having some friends ?drop in? on her. They could visit one at a time, or you could have a small (2-4 other people) surprise holiday party. You will need to decide which would be better. You know her and I don?t.

If you know someone is coming by or you do have a surprise gathering, go over to her place a few days before and make sure the house is presentable. That day you could go over and insist she get bathed and dressed. She will accept seeing people much better if the house looks presentable and she is clean and feels that she looks good.

© 2004 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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Please send me your questions, comments and issues regarding the practical side of caregiving at ASKJEAN@caregivershome.com, and remember to take advantage of our professionals and experts in the Ask an Expert section of our website. You'll find it in the left column on our homepage.

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