What to Do When Your Aging Parent Refuses Help

As your parent gets older, you might notice that they have trouble moving around or health complications that make their day-to-day lives more difficult. It’s hard to see your parent getting older, and it’s especially hard when they won’t accept help.

Why Your Aging Parent Might Be Refusing Help

Senior parents refusing help from their adult children is very common, and it’s understandable. No one wants to feel like they’re losing their independence. Sometimes, the conversation can even cause family rifts. 

Carolyn Rosenblatt, aging expert, elder law attorney, author and consultant, says you can’t force help on someone who’s still capable of making their own decisions. Your parent might not be making the best decisions – i.e. they might be eating poorly, struggling to get around without help, or living in somewhat dirty conditions – but if they’re not in any real danger, and their cognitive functions are normal, they have the right to refuse help.

Carolyn says:

“We live in a society that values self-determination. Our laws are generally set up to ensure that we get to decide how to live our lives, as long as we are not harming anyone else.”

However, there are some things you can do that might help persuade your parent that they need some help. 

How to Know If Your Aging Parent Needs Help

If you’re not sure if your parent needs help at the moment, consider using a checklist, like our Senior Safety and Wellbeing Checklist, to evaluate their home environment and habits, to see if there are any potential dangers you should be concerned about. 

Download the Senior Safety & Wellbeing Checklist here.

5 Ways to Handle Your Aging Parent Refusing Help

1. Don’t Try To Use Logic To Persuade

Carolyn says that where so many people go wrong when discussing this topic with their parent is trying to use logic. Logic won’t work in this situation, because their refusal is most likely rooted in an emotion, like fear of losing their independence. Rationally explaining the facts won’t sway someone who’s made a decision based on emotion.

2. Tell Your Parent That You Are the Problem, Not Them

Instead, if you’re concerned about your parent, Carolyn suggests letting them know that you are the one with the problem, not them. Tell them you don’t want them to get help because they necessarily need it, but because you can’t stop worrying about them. 

3. Offer Solutions That Give Them Some Control

Aging-in-place expert Fritzi Gros-Daillon, MS CAPS, CSA, SHSS, says that your parent might be more easily persuaded if you can give them a sense of control of what’s happening. She says:

“You need to determine the basis of the refusal and provide alternate solutions in which the parents have some control or choice. Many times, there are unspoken concerns, such as financial or privacy about medical conditions, that drive the refusal. The inclusion of an outside professional may be the unbiased third party opinion that can mediate a change.”

4. Start Small

Even if you think your parent needs full-time care, if they’re not in any immediate danger, sometimes it can help to start small. Instead of telling them they need to make the move to assisted living right now, you might suggest they at least accept some in-home help a couple of days a week, or assistance from one of their local senior services.

5. Be Empathetic

Caregiving expert Pamela D. Wilson suggests showing empathy. It might be frustrating when your parent refuses the help they so clearly need, but you have to put yourself in their shoes. There are most likely complex emotional reasons behind their refusal. On showing empathy, Pamela says:

“Aging parents refuse help for many reasons: fear of the unknown, wanting to maintain control over their lives, preferring to remain independent, and not wanting to be a burden to [their] adult children. The best way to have aging parents accept help is to offer it from a place of empathy and compassion. When aging parents realize that [your] offers to help are heartfelt, instead of [an] attempt to take over or control, parents will be more comfortable accepting and asking for help.”

Is Assisted Living Right for Your Parent?

Assisted living is a type of senior living that, in addition to accommodations, meals, social activities and other amenities, provides residents with assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) like bathing, grooming and dressing.

Assisted living can be extremely beneficial, especially for seniors who currently live alone. Social activities keep isolation and loneliness – which can lead to depression, anxiety and suicide if unaddressed – at bay. Having access to social and recreational opportunities can also help to keep senior brains active and healthy.

Every new resident takes an assisted living assessment to see how much help they need – and they can always start with less and move up as needed.

So even if you don’t think your parent needs daily assistance at this time, you may still want to consider assisted living. Too many families make the mistake of waiting, and their loved one ends up missing out on many of the benefits of living in a senior community.

Independence-focused Assisted Living at Eagle Flats Village

We believe that accepting help doesn’t mean that independence has to be sacrificed. For decades, we’ve been committed to providing seniors in Wilbarger County the opportunity to live independently in a supportive environment. We give support when needed and then step back and let our residents live their lives.

We offer spacious, private apartments with kitchenettes, three healthy, delicious meals a day, a full social calendar, local transportation, medication management, and more.

Ready to find out more?

Visit our vibrant community today.

Schedule your visit online or give us a call at 940-552-8181.



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