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  • Robin Dynes


There are many reasons someone might ignore their need for help. Lack of insight, denial, shame, resistance to change and fear of losing independence and control of their life are just some.

The best way to understand their attitude is to imagine yourself in their position. If they are older they may be trying to cope with several losses such as sight, hearing, mobility, memory loss and depression, and trying to adjust and cope as best they can. Along you come, implying that you know best and taking control of their life. In the same situation you might well resist, too.

Your brother, sister, parent or friend may ignore what you say, get angry or go silent when you suggest anything. To help the person move ahead and accept help you will need to build trust and rapport. Do this by:

· Making time for discussions. These will need to be relaxed and ongoing as individuals often feel isolated and afraid and that no one understands what they are going through.

· Listening and empathising. Try to gain a clear idea of their experience, what is happening to them, their illness, treatments and fears. Doing this shows that you want to understand, are sensitive to their needs and really care about how they feel. It also encourages them to open up and share their worries and concerns. Short statements like ‘I understand what you are saying’ and ‘I didn’t know you felt like that’ will help reassure the person that you are listening and want to help.

· Every now and then repeat what they say to make sure you are understanding correctly. This also reassures them that you are listening and trying to understand.

· Be respectful and non-judgemental

· If they become angry, avoid arguing, losing patience or becoming angry back. A power struggle will not help. If discussion starts to become heated, agree to leave things for the moment until you have both cooled down or agree to disagree. Remember you are trying to understand their situation and what they are going through. That does not mean you will agree with everything they say.

· Make it a collaboration. Having established that you understand, have gained their trust and want to support them, ask them how you can help. Offer suggestions as necessary, but it is their choice whether or not they take you up on these. They might prefer other ways to handle tasks. Then make a shared decision to take action about things you can agree on. This means helping them deal with their fears and their problems in a positive way.

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