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A recent AARP survey found that 76 percent of adults 50 and older want to live in their home as long as possible. Yet as their physical, functional or cognitive needs mount, some are reluctant to accept the help they need, which can compromise their safety and eventually jeopardize their ability to stay in their home. “In my clinic I frequently see patients where I know they need help at home, they’re really struggling, but they don’t want to have help,” says Lee Lindquist, M.D., chief of geriatrics at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago. “There’s a switch that goes off when people reach their 70s or 80s where they don’t want people coming over to help.” After seeing this pattern again and again, Lindquist began to wonder, Why do older adults resist accepting the help they need? and What can be done to overcome this resistance?
To find out, she and her colleagues held a series of eight focus groups with adults age 65 and older living in and around Chicago and Fort Wayne, Ind. During the meetings the participants discussed their concerns about remaining in their home as they age and their reasons for being reluctant to accept help there. As the participants discussed their concerns the researchers identified four common themes and then encouraged everyone to brainstorm effective strategies for overcoming their reluctance. The findings were published in the August 2018 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
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Here are the primary reasons older adults don’t want to accept assistance, along with their suggestions for ways that family members and caregivers can help older adults look at the situation differently and overcome their reluctance.
Reason for reluctance: Fear of losing independence
If they become unable to complete basic tasks at home, many older adults in the focus groups said they wouldn’t want to ask for help because they worry that it could lead to a further loss of independence. “They feared it would be a slippery slope and they’d end up being sent to a nursing home,” Lindquist explains. In a separate study involving 8,881 adults age 65 and older, researchers in Australia found that the fear of losing one’s independence was second only to the fear of losing one’s physical health, both of which were underscored by a fear of being admitted to a nursing home.