How to Deal with Elderly Parents Who Refuse Help: 7 Expert Tips

Aging can be a difficult process to navigate, both for parents and their kids. Sometimes aging is gradual and individuals are able to prepare for or meet needs as they arise. Other times, the children of elderly parents notice sudden changes in behavior or health. Falls, loss of appetite, difficulty with mobility and other signs of aging seem to happen all at once, signaling to caregivers that help is needed.

Getting your elderly parent to agree to help isn’t always easy, though. Some elderly individuals think they don’t need help while others struggle with the loss of independence. Some children of elderly parents report major struggles with getting mom or dad to listen or to comply with the “new normal”. The whole process becomes frustrating for everyone.

How to Deal with Elderly Parents Who Refuse Help

How to Deal with Elderly Parents Who Refuse Help

Dealing with elderly parents who refuse help can be tough, but here are 7 of our expert tips to help you navigate this part of their aging process.

1. Start the Conversation Early

Start the aging conversation with your elderly parents as early as possible. This might mean that you have to talk about uncomfortable topics like personal home care, assisted living or end of life scenarios long before your parent feels like they’re “elderly.”

In these conversations, discuss when and why help might be appropriate. Talk through what signs you will be looking for and what you hope your parent will share with you regarding their health and mobility. You might want to include things like:

  • Your loved one’s appetite/diet and how it might change
  • Your loved one’s ability to leave the house easily and transport themselves on daily errands and doctor’s appointments
  • Your loved one’s ability (or desire) to continue to participate in social activities
  • Your loved one’s overall mobility
  • Your loved one’s current home and the suitability of it for your loved one to age in place (e.g. steep stairs, extent of home maintenance and location of main living spaces could be prohibitive to this goal)
  • Your loved one’s future plans for travel, vacations, etc

If you can talk about these things openly and honestly before the need for help arises, the easier it will be to bring help into the home when it is time.

If you didn’t start this conversation early, it’s still never too late. Talk about the need and plan for help as soon as possible. It might be a tough conversation…your parent may not notice their daily hygiene routines have slipped, or that it seems more and more difficult to do laundry or that they’ve missed several doctor’s appointments in a row. They may have a strong emotional reaction to your desire to help or get help. But be patient and talk it out.

2. Give Your Elderly Parents Options

It’s important as your elderly parent ages to help them feel like they have a say in their care. So, in your conversations, give them as many options as possible.

Perhaps at first you see how things improve with a home health aide or with a home care companion. Your elderly parent might just need to not feel so lonely and this option can be the right level of care for the moment. Overall, try not to give ultimatums if your parent is still able to make relatively healthful decisions for themselves.

3. Give Your Parent a Reason

If your elderly parent is still refusing help, give them a reason outside of themselves to accept help.

You could ask them to get help because it would help you worry less. Or you could invoke the grandkids. Or you could even explain that you’d like them to continue to live at home, but you’re concerned about falls or that they’re lonely. Sometimes an elderly parent needs to be reminded of what’s at stake or that others care for their well-being.

4. Prioritize Your Concerns

Make a list of your current concerns for your elderly parent and what kinds of help they’ll need to alleviate those concerns. Then prioritize that list. You might find that the most immediate need isn’t necessarily to hire in help, but to reorganize their home so they can move around more easily.

You might also find that there are some areas you weren’t aware of that need immediate attention. Perhaps your loved one hasn’t been taking their medicine consistently for weeks. Or that you didn’t realize they had stopped going to their once loved social gatherings.

Taking the time to understand the scope of your parent’s needs and then addressing the most important ones will help to establish a plan and pattern of support in the coming years.

5. Bring in the Health Care Experts

If your elderly parent still won’t listen to you, it’s time to bring in the experts (though, of course, you can bring them in any time). Ask their primary care physician to emphasize at their next visit how important it is to avoid falls. Or have their specialist explain the consequences of missing medications and appointments.

You might also enlist the help of a pastor, spiritual advisor or social worker. Family friends might be better suited to explaining the consequences of not dealing with symptoms of dementia in a spouse early. Whoever you or your loved one has in your lives that can bring in that expert direction and opinion could make all the difference in accepting help.

6. Know (and Accept) Your Limits

Many adult children and caregivers become frustrated or angry with the ongoing arguments or refusals from parents to accept help. At some point, you might need to step back and assess your ability to help your parent in this situation.

This step can be extremely difficult for only children, or children whose siblings live far away. But remember you don’t have to do everything and, in fact, might not be the person best suited to support your parent at this time.

It’s okay to say, “I need help” or to distance yourself a bit from being so heavily involved in your parent’s day-to-day care. In many cases, this distance can bring some emotional relief to both you and your parent and make it easier to make the next right decision.

7. Remember Your Elderly Parents Have the Right to Refuse Help

Finally, remember that your parents have the right to refuse help. This fact can be difficult to understand and accept. You want there to be a seamless role reversal from the way they helped and supported you when you were young to how you wish to help and support them when they’re old.

But this new way of being isn’t always seamless or easy. Many elderly parents resent what feels like a loss of independence, and have a hard time allowing their children to step into the role of caretaker. Sometimes it feels less like “care” and more like “trying to tell me what to do” to a senior, and it brings up feelings of fear and resentment.

Part of navigating the aging of your elderly parents is understanding and–as much as possible–giving them the space to feel as though they still have control in their decision making. They may refuse help or gratefully accept it. And they may find a middle ground or compromise that surprises you when you give them the option to do so.

Home Health Care for the Elderly in Akron, Ohio

Our goal is to help seniors enjoy living at home for longer. My Family Home Health Care in Akron, Ohio offers a variety of in-home health services to help your elderly parent enjoy their independence when possible. Let My Family take care of your family. Contact us today for an assessment.