Advice & Information

What to Do When Elderly Parents Refuse Help

It’s tough when your fiercely independent parent is in denial about needing help. Perhaps they are having trouble with personal hygiene, driving, cooking meals, or doing yard work. Yet when you bring up hiring help or moving to assisted living, they get upset. 

Though it’s not easy knowing what to do when elderly parents refuse help, the majority of families are facing this dilemma — 77% of adult children reported that their aging parents are refusing help or their advice.

Despite your loved one insisting that they don’t need help, you know that they’re struggling and want to fight for their well-being. Here’s how to handle a stubborn parent and work together to make plans to get help.

Why Elderly Parents Refuse Care

There are several reasons why elderly parents refuse help and it’s vital to understand your parent’s motives, so you can address their concerns. Some of the most common reasons include:

  • Want to maintain their independence: Older adults value their freedom and the conversation about assisted living can make them feel helpless.  
  • Are scared of what moving to assisted living means: The stigma of a “nursing home” can be strong for older adults, which is why it’s essential to show them what an assisted living community actually looks and feels like. 
  • Are worried about the finances: If your aging parent hasn’t planned financially for care, they may be concerned about paying for it and losing their family home or inheritance plans. 
  • Feel undervalued or misunderstood: Aging can be a lonely process for many older adults and they can feel frustrated when others, especially their own family members, don’t see things from their perspective.
  • Have a medical condition that makes them confused: In some cases, your parent may suffer from cognitive impairment that makes it difficult to think and plan for the future. In this case, you may need to get a power of attorney in order to get them help.

By knowing these typical reasons, you can better strategize to persuade your parent to get help. No matter what they’re feeling, you should listen to and validate their concerns. Often emphasizing with your parent can help you agree on priorities and make plans as a team.

How to Help Your Elderly Parents Accept Care 

The process of convincing your parents to accept care can take time and patience. If you’re not sure how to approach this issue, here are some clear steps to get started. 

1. Get Your Family Members on the Same Page 

It’s essential that your family acts as a united front so that your parent isn’t getting mixed messages. Discuss your parent’s situation together and decide on who will be the point person for leading these conversations with your parent.

2. Listen Closely to Your Parent’s Concerns

Don’t be dismissive about your parent’s concerns or emotions. Try to listen empathetically and understand their point of view. Simply lending an ear can help move forward the conversation, as your parent will feel heard and respected. 

3. Make an Argument for You and the Grandkids

Often aging parents won’t make a change for themselves, but they will for their kids or grandkids. Make it about you and gently explain to your parent that the current situation is becoming a burden for you. You might also suggest a longer relationship with the grandkids if your parent gets help and care.

4. Use Teachable Moments to Highlight Concerns

If your parent recently left the stove on or had a fall, you can use these teachable moments to explain why getting help will keep them safe. The idea here isn’t to scold but to highlight how worried you are and why you want to ensure their well-being by getting help.

5. Reframe the Benefits of Senior Living

There are so many misunderstandings about what senior living is. You can do wonders in convincing your parents by focusing on the benefits of these communities. Reinforce how assisted living communities will elevate their independence, let them pursue their favorite hobbies, give them peace of mind in a secure apartment or any other key concerns that your parent may have.

6. Give Them Control Over Choices

Choices are everything. Your parent should feel in control of changes, so be sure that you work together to define priorities and create a list of care options. In this way, your parent will feel like they haven’t lost their independence and can choose how they want to get help.

What to Do if Your Aging Parent Still Refuses Help

If you’re still struggling to get an aging parent to accept help, don’t give up yet. This process can take months of strategizing to get results, so stay calm and try these next steps.

1. Write Down a List of Priorities Together

One way to make progress with your parent is to do a planning activity together. Sit down and ask your parent to help you brainstorm priorities and hopes for their life in the coming years. 

For example, your parent may be keen on keeping a garden or continuing to go to their community church. They may also be worried about a health emergency and want to prioritize their health care. This list will be helpful to refer back to when discussing care options. 

2. Take a Senior Living Tour so They Can See the Benefits Firsthand

Often senior living communities don’t look anything like your parent imagined – they’re so much more vibrant and modern! Schedule a tour at a community like Varenita so your parent can visualize the beautiful campus and resident life. Sometimes this is enough to get your parent interested in moving to a senior living community. 

3. Bring in a Respected Figure, such as a Doctor, Spiritual Leader, Friend, etc.

Your parent may regard the advice of outside voices more than your own. Get in touch with somebody they respect such as their doctor, spiritual leader or friend and ask them for help. Get your parent to sit down with this figure and talk about their future in order to nudge them into making a change.

4. Find an Outlet for Your Feelings

Remember: you can’t force your parent to accept help. While it can be frustrating and upsetting to see your parent in decline, it’s important not to let your feelings ruin your relationship. Find an outlet to get out that anger, such as talking to a friend, therapist or support group. 

Release those negative emotions elsewhere so that you can maintain a good relationship with your parent and continue making progress in getting them help. 

Final Steps for Helping Your Elderly Parent

At this point, you’ve tried numerous strategies for getting your parent to accept help. If you’re still not getting results, you should continue to build your relationship with your parent and continue the conversation over time. Specifically, you should:

  • Prioritize your love and care. Try to maintain your relationship with your parent, as this key to getting positive results. You can’t force them to do anything, so simply put your best face forward in supporting your aging parent the best you can.
  • Start learning about assisted living. Do research and reach out to communities, so that when your parent is ready to accept help, you have plenty of resources ready to go. 
  • Consult an elder care lawyer. This is a last resort that should be reserved for cases where your parent is suffering from significant cognitive impairment. You can talk to a lawyer to understand potential legal paths, but remember that it’s always best to work with your parent whenever possible. 

Support Your Elderly Parent in Getting Help

Dealing with a stubborn elderly parent who refuses help can be frustrating. Yet with these strategies, you may have better chances of convincing your parent to get help for the good of the entire family.
At Varenita’s senior living community in West Cobb, GA, we’re here to support you during this difficult process. Get in touch to experience senior living ReEnvisioned and learn how we can support your aging parent in the coming years.