There can often be a fine line between helping or supporting seniors and enabling them to continue behaviors that only hurt them. Sometimes, lending a hand actually makes a problem stick around, and that’s when it becomes enabling. We can’t change a problem if we are not forced to face the consequences of our actions. Enabling removes that opportunity. Are you helping or enabling your loved one?
Enabling can come in many forms, such as ignoring, lying about or making excuses for unacceptable behavior, walking on eggshells in order to avoid a blow up, passing blame to others, lending money to a person with an addiction, or taking on responsibilities that your loved one is capable of doing himself.
Enablers often feel a sense of control when they “help” a loved one, which raises their self-esteem. It actually takes control away from the senior, however, since she is not taking responsibility for her own actions. Therefore, it makes problems worse.
Fulfilling Requests for Help Too Much – Some seniors seem to give up on life and start asking too much of their family members. Instead of satisfying their every whim, choose some things that you know they require help with and let them know that you will take care of those things as well as emergencies. Then reassure them that they can still do the other things on their own and that doing so is good for their physical and emotional health.
Addictions – Whether your loved one is addicted to alcohol, cigarettes, drugs or foods, addictions are common with seniors these days. In some cases, there might not be much you can do to get them to stop at this point in their lives, especially if you aren’t with your loved one 24/7. Of course, if you make their purchases, you can certainly refuse to purchase their vices or reduce the volume. You can stop lending them money when you know it will only go towards fulfilling their addiction. You can also try e-cigarettes instead of cigarettes and try watering down alcohol.
Arthritis – When a person with arthritis doesn’t move the affected joints on a regular basis, mobility can become almost impossible. That’s why helping a senior with arthritis too much can do more harm than good by enabling a disability to develop that doesn’t need to be there. It can be difficult to watch someone you love struggle in pain, but make sure the long-term picture is first and foremost in your mind.
Bottom line: helping is when you are doing something for someone that she can’t do for herself, while enabling is doing things for her that she can and should be doing for herself. Enabling creates an environment that allows your loved one to continue behaving in an unacceptable way. In essence, all you are doing is helping the senior to keep having the same problem.