Reflexive Helping

Reflexive Helping: When Helping Hurts

Help !
Reflexive Helping Can HurtSimply Viola via / CC BY-NC-SA

As PD worsens, a person necessarily becomes more reliant on the family. Understandably, the family responds with an increased sensitivity to their loved one’s needs. Problems arise when sensitivity morphs into a reflexive response to those needs. When helping another becomes a reflex, it is not always serving the best interests of the PWP or the partner.

There is no greater assault on a person’s dignity and sense of worth than the frustration of struggling to do things that were once a natural part of daily life. Personal dignity takes a hit when that person has to ask for help but it can be absolutely battered when a loved one swoops in with assistance because the struggle is difficult for them to watch.

It is human nature to respond to a loved one in need. However, it is also human nature to become less likely to do tedious or difficult things when the act of trying seems to distress others. “Here, I’ll do it” or “I can do it faster” can sound a lot like”You can’t do it.” It doesn’t take long to fall into the habit of letting others assuage their distress through well-intentioned action. Reflex fosters dependence.

Dependence can become the unintended consequence of reflexive helping.

As hard as it can be, sometimes the best way to help a person with PD is to let them struggle and step in only when asked. And when asked to assist, consider

Beating Parkinson's One Family at a Time