What To Do When An Elderly Parent Refuses Help

Apr 16, 2014

One of the most difficult things for an adult to go through is to watch their aging parents get to a point where they can no longer take care of themselves. You want to keep them safe and healthy as long as possible, but sometimes, that comes at the heavy cost of taking away their freedoms. It becomes even more difficult when an elderly loved one is actively refusing your help.

How to Talk to Your Aging Parents

Ideally, it’s best to have these conversations with your parents before it becomes absolutely necessary. This can be a great way to prevent problems down the line.

Knowing your aging parents’ expectations can help you make sure that their wants and needs are being met. For example, if you know your father fears becoming a burden on you or your siblings, you can discuss options of an assisted living facility. Having this conversation in advance can also help you reassure your parent that you’re following their original plan.

These conversations are never easy. It can be hard for you, as the child, to come to terms with losing your parents, just as it can be hard for your parents to face these difficult topics. Sometimes it certainly seems easier to avoid the topic altogether – until it’s too late.

It can be much harder to reason with your loved one once things get to the point where their failing health makes it absolutely necessary to find an alternative living situation – but it’s not impossible.

Take Time To Listen

Ask your loved one questions to figure out why they’re so hesitant about receiving care, whether it’s from you or a professional. There are different reasons elderly parents reject each form of assistance. Some common reasons include:

  • Denial of their inability to care for themselves
  • Fear of losing independence or privacy
  • Fear of being abandoned by family members
  • Fear of  being a burden on adult children
  • Concerns about money
  • Anxiety over change
  • Fear of coming to terms with their own mortality

Regardless of the reason, listening to your parent’s concerns can make it easier to reassure them and ease their fears. If your mother has fears of abandonment if she moves to a home, assure her that you’ll visit her frequently and bring her over for holidays. If dad still thinks he’s perfectly capable of caring for himself, bring up specific events that caused you and your family to be concerned. Confront him on a recent fall, or the fact that he’s lost weight due to poor nutrition.

Make it About Your Concern, Not Their Incompetence

Make your elderly parent feel as if they would be doing this for your benefit, not because they need it. Rather than saying “we don’t believe you can safely live alone,” try saying “it would do wonders for our peace of mind if you would accept some help to make your life easier.”

Recruit Allies

It can sometimes be difficult for an aging parent to see you, their child, as someone who has any level of authority to tell them what they need. That’s why it can be helpful to get the help of others your parent may be more likely to listen to. Having the second opinion of someone like a pastor, doctor, or even family friend can help your parent see things from multiple perspectives.

Show them the Benefits

If your parent is still resisting help, show them the benefits. If they’re refusing to hire someone to help them at home, point out that having someone to cook and clean would free up their time to enjoy their hobbies. If they don’t want to move in with you because they’re afraid of being a burden, tell them it would make you happy to have a chance to spend more time with them. If they reject the idea of an assisted living facility, tell them about some events they might enjoy, such as salsa lessons or poker nights.

Include them in the Planning Process

Rather than forcing your solution on your aging parent, make them a part of it. Maybe they aren’t ready to move out just yet, so suggest hiring in-home elder care. Let them be a part of the interviewing process so you can be sure to select someone they feel comfortable with. If they’re hesitant about moving to a home, let them visit a few different ones with you so they can choose the one they prefer. By including them in the process, you allow them to maintain a level of autonomy, which will certainly put them more at ease.

What Can I Do If My Parent Still Refuses Help?

If you are concerned that your elderly parent may be a danger to themselves or others around them, you may need to take legal action. Unless you are the appointed guardian for your senior parent, you cannot force them to move to an assisted living facility or nursing home. It is possible to force an aging parent into guardianship, but this should only be done as an absolute last resort. Not only can it harm the relationship between you and your parent, but the process can be extremely costly, time consuming and stressful for everyone involved.

If forcing guardianship seems like the only way to keep your loved one from endangering themselves or others, contact an elder law attorney, like Christina Lesher, to guide you in the right direction. Call (713) 529-5900 to speak with an elder law expert today.

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