Why someone needs ‘to play bad cop’

  |   Elderly parents, Seniors

“Who says I can’t manage?”

Does that sound familiar? Have you heard your Mom or Dad ask you this type of question?

As they age at home, many seniors feel their dignity and independence are at stake if they need to hire support. Often, there may be an underlying fear that hiring help now may just be a first step towards being “put into a home.” 

Denial can be a major challenge to overcome for all concerned. For example, a parent may rationalize he doesn’t garden anymore by choice because he doesn’t feel like it; in reality, gardening  is too physically demanding. A parent may say frozen meals are just as tasty as the food she used to cook. In reality, meal preparation takes too much energy, even if commercially prepared food doesn’t provide the best dietary choices.    

How do you get the conversation going? Do you want to back the senior into a corner so he has to admit he can’t cope anymore without help? Do you just keep raising the issue until he finally gives in? Do you bring him to the family doctor’s office with the hope the doctor will convince him he needs home care?

My experience has shown that it can be a successful strategy  to invite an independent, unbiased third party into the home to discuss care with the senior. When an outsider is invited into the home, the senior feels empowered and safe. The senior will typically draw upon logic, rather than give an emotional response to a family member.

Your challenge is what type of choices you can present to someone who is in denial. If you sense your parent isn’t going to listen to you, get a professional who understands the risks of doing nothing and won’t acquiesce to avoid rocking the boat.

I’ve come to believe that you need someone who can play “bad cop” – someone who will say it as it is and has nothing to lose. I often start this type of conversation off with  a simple phrase: “You will likely fire me for what I am going to say, but it needs to be said.” I’ve never been fired, so far. Give me a call any time!