...Barry Jacobs, a clinical psychologist and family therapist, sounded similar themes in describing a psychiatrist in his late 70s who didn’t like to bend to authority. After his wife died, the older man stopped shaving and changing his clothes regularly. Though he had diabetes, he didn’t want to see a physician and instead prescribed medicine for himself. Even after several strokes compromised his vision, he insisted on driving.
Jacobs’ take: “You don’t want to go toe-to-toe with someone like this, because you will lose. They’re almost daring you to tell them what to do so they can show you they won’t follow your advice.”
What’s the alternative? “I would employ empathy and appeal to this person’s pride as a basis for handling adversity or change,” Jacobs said. “I might say something along the lines of, ‘I know you don’t want to stop driving and that this will be very painful for you. But I know you have faced difficult, painful changes before and you’ll find your way through this.’ “
“You’re appealing to their ideal self rather than treating them as if they don’t have the right to make their own decisions anymore,” he said. In the older psychiatrist’s case, conflict with his four children was constant, but he eventually stopped driving.
Another strategy that can be useful: “Show up, but do it in a way that’s face-saving,” Jacobs said. Instead of asking your father if you can check in on him, “Go to his house and say, ‘The kids really wanted to see you. I hope you don’t mind.’ Or ‘We made too much food. I hope you don’t mind my bringing it over.’ Or ‘I wanted to stop by. I hope you can give me some advice about this issue that’s on my mind.’ “