How to Get a Stubborn Family Member to Look After Themselves

Thứ bảy - 27/04/2024 01:10
It's hard to watch family members refuse to take care of themselves. You might be dealing with an elderly parent, a sibling struggling with addiction or mental health issues, an ill relative, or some other family member. Finding ways to...
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It's hard to watch family members refuse to take care of themselves. You might be dealing with an elderly parent, a sibling struggling with addiction or mental health issues, an ill relative, or some other family member. Finding ways to encourage healthy choices while protecting yourself is important for you and your family. While you can't force someone to take responsibility for themselves, there are things you can do to try to help that person take care of themselves better.

Part 1
Part 1 of 3:

Communicating with a Resistant Relative

  1. Step 1 Formulate your concerns in advance.
    It's often difficult to keep track of your thoughts during difficult conversations, so it's helpful to plan your main points in advance. In the heat of the moment, you don't want to end up blurting out something you don't mean.
    • You might try writing an imaginary letter to your relative expressing all your concerns. Then, read that letter, imagining that you're in your relative's position. This will help you to frame your concerns in a constructive way.[1]
    • Try to imagine your relative's objections will be. Develop respectful, thoughtful responses to those objections.
    • Include reasons why your family member's behavior has a negative impact on others, including on you.
    • Share your concerns with a trusted third party. Don't rehearse the conversation, but be clear about what you want to express and what you hope to achieve.
  2. Step 2 Plan a conversation for a quiet, unstressful moment.
    You need to talk to your relative about your concerns, but you should do so in a way that will maximize your chances of success. Planning a conversation in advance will help you address your concerns with out making your relationship worse.
    • Plan the conversation in advance. Don't wait until a crisis to bring up what's bothering you.
    • Let your relative know you'd like to speak with him seriously. Avoid springing a heavy conversation on your relative. Instead, give him time to prepare.
    • Choose a comfortable setting. You might demonstrate your good intentions by taking your relative out to lunch. Avoid settings that evoke the problem: for instance, don't talk about problem drinking in a bar.
  3. Step 3 Ask what is making your relative choose not to take care of herself.
    What looks like stubbornness to you might be covering up many different emotions or issues. You will need to phrase this question carefully. You want to convey that you are genuinely interested in hearing the answer. In addition, you want to avoid asking the question in a way that sounds like nagging or pressuring.
    • For example, you might say: “I know that we don't always agree on this issue, but I'd love to know more about your perspective.” Or, ask: “What scares you most about reaching out to a therapist?”
    • Don't imply judgment with your question. For example, don't ask: “Why do you refuse to eat healthy food?” Instead, ask: “I'd like to understand your decisions around food better. Can you tell me more?”
    • Some people are angry about needing help or guilty about the burden their situation imposes on others.
    • Others might be frightened about their condition and seeking reassurance through making their relatives and loved ones take on too much responsibility for their care. They might be lonely and see failing to take care of themselves as a way to get attention from you.
  4. Step 4 Listen and respond without judgment.
    Let your relative talk, and don't rush to interrupt or provide solutions. Although your relative's words might bring up many feelings for you, don't express them all at once. Reacting with anger and resentment will only make the situation worse. Instead, practice non-judgmental listening.
    • Put yourself in your relative's shoes. Listen to what he is saying about his own experience, and try to be empathetic.
    • Accept that your relative's feelings, judgments, and perspectives might be different from your own. That's ok.
    • Be genuine. You don't have to pretend to think that your relative's decisions are great. Instead, be calm and honest. For example, you might say: “I understand that taking medication for your depression is frightening for you. I don't agree with your decision, but I can accept that you feel that way.”
  5. Step 5 Don't mistake the physical for the emotional.
    Be aware of mental health issues, memory loss, or other factors that might make it hard for your relative to take care of themselves or even to understand and remember why she should take care of herself.
    • If you observe changes in your relative's behavior that make you suspect dementia or other cognitive issues, you will need to get your relative evaluated by a professional.[2]
    • Recognize that some behaviors have physical causes. Low blood sugar, for example, might cause a diabetic relative to become cranky or confused.[3]
  6. Step 6 Talk about the effects your relative's choices have.
    Emphasize the negative impacts his choices are having on you, on his career, or on his children.[4]
    • Where possible, use “I” statements. Instead of saying, “You're making everyone miserable!” offer specific examples. You might say: “When you come home drunk, I see that your children are scared and worried.” Or, “I feel overwhelmed when I have to come over every night to make sure you're ok.”
  7. Step 7 End the conversation on a positive note.
    Even if you haven't been able to achieve all your goals in the conversation, close it by telling your relative something that you value about her. Let her know that the relationship is meaningful to you. Thank her for taking the time to talk honestly with you. The point is not “winning” the conversation, but continuing to built a trusting relationship.[5]
  8. Step 8 Ask other people to speak to your relative.
    Another relative, friend, or trusted member of the community might be able to reach your relative in a way you can't. In addition, hearing the same message from more than one person might help your relative to understand the seriousness of the situation.
    • For example, you could reach out to a pastor or rabbi whose opinion your relative respects. They might be able to explain why it's damaging to family relationships not to take responsibility for one's own health and well-being.
    • If you have a relative battling addiction, you might choose to stage an intervention. This should be carefully planned in consultation with a doctor or licensed drug counselor.[6]
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Part 2
Part 2 of 3:

Supporting Your Relative in Making Good Choices

  1. Step 1 Praise healthy choices.
    Positive reinforcement is more effective than criticism at encouraging healthy behaviors.[7] Make a practice of noticing when your relative does something good for himself, and point it out to him.
    • For example, you might say: “I've noticed that you've gone for a lot of walks lately with your friends. That's great! It makes me so happy to see you enjoying yourself and getting exercise.”
    • Or, you could send a simple, supportive message: “Nice job going to therapy today. I know it's not easy!”
  2. Step 2 Model healthy behavior.
    You can't make someone else take care of herself, but if you show her that you are willing to get rest, practice healthy nutrition, talk about your feelings, and move and breathe in healthy ways, then you'll feel better no matter what she chooses to do. And, you might just inspire her to try it.
  3. Step 3 Learn more about your relative's specific condition.
    If your relative is suffering from a mental health issue, patterns of communication that work in general might not work as well with them. Support groups or your own therapist or counselor might be able to offer advice on effective communication strategies. In addition, reading up on your relative's condition on your own might help you to understand the situation better.
  4. Step 4 Do healthy activities with your relative.
    A friendly invitation shows that you value your relative and want to spend time with him. What's more, doing an activity together can strengthen your relationship and offer you things to talk about besides your conflict over his behavior.
    • For example, go for a walk or a jog together.[8]
    • Sign up for the same water aerobics or yoga class.
    • Turning exercise into a social occasion will help lessen your relative's loneliness as well as supporting her in making good choices.
  5. Step 5 Support your relative in ways that are healthy for you.
    While you need to set boundaries on what you do for your relative, it doesn't mean that you can't do anything for your relative. Develop a set of things that you can do that feel sustainable to you and that bring you satisfaction as well as helping your relative.
    • For example, buy and cook healthy food for your relative if you have her over for dinner. It's not your responsibility to feed your diabetic relative every day. But if you host a party and invite her, preparing a diabetic-friendly treat could be a nice gesture.[9]
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Part 3
Part 3 of 3:

Taking Care of Yourself

  1. Step 1 Recognize that you have needs, too.
    Caring for a relative is stressful.[10] No matter what your motivations or situation, recognize that taking on any aspect of a relative's care will have an effect on your own well-being. You need to take care of yourself as well.
  2. Step 2 Try to change negative thought patterns about your role in your relative's life.
    There are some common thought patterns that stop caregivers from taking adequate care of themselves. These patterns suggest that you need to seek support for yourself so that you do not become overwhelmed with caregiving.
    • For instance, you might believe that no one else can care correctly for your relative. [11] In reality, you may be feeding into a cycle of dependency; your relative may be better at seeking help from others or at taking responsibility for herself than you realize.
    • You might believe that it's selfish to prioritize your own needs. In fact, it's necessary to meet your own needs first.
    • Caregiving might seem like the only way to earn your family's respect.
  3. Step 3 Attend relevant support groups for family members.
    Talking to other people who have been through what you're facing can be very helpful.
    • Al-Anon is an organization that provides support for relatives of people with drinking and addiction problem.[12]
    • The Brain Injury Association provides a list of local organizations with resources for family members of people with traumatic brain injuries.
  4. Step 4 Don't enable bad behavior.
    This is a sign of a co-dependent relationship.[13] While it may be hard, it is not your role to prevent your relative from ever feeling the negative consequences of his own behavior. You should not turn your own life upside-down in order to accommodate his unhealthy or irresponsible choices.[14] Co-dependent and enabling relationships are not sustainable and will ultimately take a significant toll on you.
  5. Step 5 Accept the limits of what you can do.
    Ultimately, your relative gets to make her own decisions about her own life. Accepting this can be difficult but necessary.
    • If your relative is genuinely unable to make decisions, consult your doctor about your legal options. You may be able to obtain guardianship, a health care proxy,[15] or other legal powers that will allow you to make decisions on behalf of your relative.
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  • If you think that someone you know might physically harm themselves or someone else, contact the police immediately.
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