Carol Bradley Bursack, Published March 23 2013
Minding Our Elders: Husband won’t accept wife’s help caring for his mother
DEAR SHARON: Your husband may view placing his mother in a nursing home as a failure on his part, which in turn can lead to feelings of guilt and even depression. While he’s no doubt aware that he’s not keeping up with the paperwork, and you sincerely want to help, he seems to be viewing your offers to assist him as criticism for not caring for his mother’s needs well enough.
You could gently suggest counseling, which would be ideal. However, if he refuses, which I suspect is likely at this point, you could try altering your approach to see if that helps. By altering your approach, I mean that you may have to back off and let him try to handle the problems on his own for awhile.
While there may be unpleasant consequences if your husband continues to let paperwork pile up, the world won’t end. It may take something semi-dramatic, such as more insistent calls about neglected bills, for your husband to understand that accepting assistance doesn’t mean he’s not a good son.
Hopefully, if left to his own devices, he will eventually become less defensive. If you see this happening, you could make a small offer by saying, “Would you like me to fill this out while you’re at work and then you can sign it? If we work as a team, we’ll get through it more quickly.”
Approach the matter lightly or he may withdraw again. No matter what you do to cope with this situation, he’s likely to need time to accept the fact that letting you and others help with his mom is not a weakness. I think it would be good for you to see a counselor on your own to get help in handling this situation. It’s even possible that if you go to a counselor yourself he may eventually see the wisdom of asking for advice and agree to go, as well.
Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a website supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.