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How To Help Elderly Parents Who Don’t Want Help

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Does this sound familiar? You’re aware your elderly parents are stubborn, but you didn’t realize it was quite to this extent. Whenever you bring up the topic of them needing help, they shut you down full-stop. You wish they could see what you can. There are safety issues that concern you, plus they can’t do as much for themselves as they used to.

How can you help elderly parents who don’t want help? When your aging parents won’t accept help even when they need it, try doing this:

  • Provide multiple options
  • Talk up the positives
  • Appeal to their emotions
  • Consider guardianship

This can be a headache-inducing and difficult situation to be in, but we have guidance to help family caregivers get through it. Take a deep breath, and then keep reading for information on why an older person would turn down help and what you can do if none of your other options work. 

Why Do Seniors Refuse Help?

It can be frustrating and hard to understand why a stubborn parent who is obviously having a harder and harder time getting around won’t let you explore care options with them.

It gets even worse when they begin to refuse medication, refuse to shower or to eat, etc.

Here are some possible reasons for why they are resisting your help or any additional support. 

They’re Stubborn 

The lifestyle and health resource, Considerable, in a 2020 article, mentions that studies have been done on the stubborn streak in older people. It’s not only their adult children who complain about how stubborn elderly parents can be; the parents agree! 

So what makes senior parents so stubborn?

It turns out it’s mainly due to a difference in viewpoints. Older adults want to maintain some degree of independence, yet adult children will envision every possible risk of their elderly parent doing such. Then they butt heads.

Each time this happens, your senior parents become more stubborn.  

They’re Afraid Of Change

Few people like change despite knowing that it’s an inevitable part of life. Older adults might struggle with sudden changes even more so than younger adults do.

Why is that? According to Hindustan Times, in research done on senior mice, one of their brain circuits centered around goal-directed learning was found to have degraded in their older years. This caused confusion when in a new environment. 

Although mice and humans are two very different species, the results from this study might be applicable to people. 

At the very least, you can now understand why your senior parents resist change so much. They have a hard time adapting to a new situation. Why would an aging parent choose to live in a nursing home or an assisted living community when the best way (in their minds) is to stay in the family home where they have lived for years? 

They Don’t Want To Admit They’re Getting Old 

One of the hardest things is to concede you’re getting older. This is true even if you look in the mirror and your face shows crow’s feet and other wrinkles or if you have sagging skin and graying hair. 

My 90-year old grandmother once told me that she would get a terrible shock when she looked in the mirror, if she hadn’t done so in a few days. Inside, she felt like she was in her 40s, but then she would see an old woman looking back at her!

Your elderly parents might believe that as long as they can keep up with their daily routines (even if they’re not doing it well) that they can continue to deny that they’ve gotten older. Once they move to a nursing home or assisted living, they would consider themselves officially old. 

They Need To Feel A Sense Of Control

In their current home environment, your senior parents makes all their own decisions (unless you’re living with them as a primary caregiver, and then you get to make some calls). They choose when to wake up, when to go to sleep, what they eat, what they wear, and what they do.

Your parents might feel concerned that if they live in an assisted living facility, they’ll have a loss of independence.

After all, they may have meals cooked and served to them and light housekeeping done for them. If they can no longer drive, they might be unable to go out on their own. That’s the last thing your senior parents want. 

They Don’t Want To Look Weak

In the minds of many seniors, asking for help is a sign of weakness. Your elderly parents may already be struggling with daily tasks and other areas of their lives. They don’t want to come out and admit that they need help because that’s also confessing that they’re weak.

One or both of your parents may be far too proud for that – even if they are aware that their quality of life is suffering.

Financial Concerns

Even if they know that getting help is the best option for them, your parents may be under a financial strain and don’t want you to know about it.

After all, it isn’t cheap to move into assisted living, nor is it cheap to hire a professional caregiver or a personal care aide to come into their home to help with simple tasks.

Mental Confusion Can Lead To Difficult Decision-Making 

Finally, it might not be that your elderly parents don’t want help, but that they don’t know how to ask for or receive it. If they have the early or early-to-middle stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, their mental confusion could prohibit them from making clear choices. 

How To Convince An Elderly Parent They Need Help

Understanding where your elderly parents are coming from could go a long way towards helping them finally realize that getting help is in their best interests. They might even accept it. These other tips ought to be beneficial as well. 

Provide Multiple Options

Since you know your senior parents want to maintain control over their own lives (which is only fair), don’t say something like, “Hey, Dad, I’m sending you to X nursing home so you can have the best care.

Instead, ask open-ended questions about what they want and how to obtain it. Would it work to have them continue to live at home by hiring a home caregiver? Do they need financial help from their adult children so they can get some assistance with daily activities?

If your elderly parents are healthy and mobile enough for assisted living, then you might ask them which facility they’d rather look into.

Even if circumstances say they can’t choose between those options, they can at least pick which long-term care facility or nursing home where they’ll spend their days. 

Talk Up the Positives

Positive thinking can be a game changer! If you and your elderly parents get into squabbles about the negative aspects of assisted living or other senior housing options, then of course, you’re getting nowhere with convincing them to consider these options. 

The next time you sit down and talk with your senior parents, focus more on the positive aspects of their living options.

For instance, show them photos of an assisted living community with a lively reputation to spark their excitement. My father was very reluctant to move to a senior independent community after my mother passed away, but when he visited one place during “happy hour” and saw how much fun everyone was having, he was convinced it would be a great place to move to (and he moved!).

You might also discuss how they’d be cared for and in what ways. 

Also, as I mentioned, try taking them on a tour of a couple of places you think they would like so they can see them first hand.

Appeal to Their Emotions

If you’re still not getting anywhere when talking with your elderly parents, then it’s okay to pull out the emotions card. We wouldn’t recommend doing this too much, though, or it will become ineffective.

You might tell your parents that you’re having too much difficulty caring for them yourself. If you express your frustration about caring for them and your fears that something might happen to them when they’re in your care, they might begin to change their minds.

You can even say that other family members want them to get help or that they should do it so they’re healthy enough to see their grandchildren. 

In my father’s case, he lived 40 miles away from me. I told him how much I worried about him being alone at a distance that could make it difficult for me to get to him if needed (say, during rush hour in our huge metro area).

We also discussed that it would be difficult for me to take care of him if he got sick or injured while he lived so far away. I think this helped to persuade him to move, as well.

I must mention that you’re not manipulating your elderly parents here. You’re simply expressing a more emotional side of yourself so that you might reach their emotions. 

What Do You Do When An Elderly Parent Refuses Needed Care?

Little by little, you tried the above tactics with your elderly parents. You even appealed to their emotions, or tried to, anyway, but it didn’t work. They still refuse to accept home help or moving into assisted living or a nursing home. 

You’re not sure what to do at this point. Well, you have two options, and both are difficult in their own ways.

Accept Their Decision

The first option you have is to accept your elderly parent’s choice. Yes, that’s right, rather than move them into a facility, they’d continue to live at home. If you have the room in your budget, you might pay for a home care aide or for some personal care services, such as grocery shopping, etc. 

For those who can’t afford those services, then you would have to continue to do your best to take care of your elderly parents where they are currently living. 

Obtain Guardianship 

If you can’t fathom just letting your parents continue without help, then you can always become their guardian. This would give you the right to make decisions on behalf of your elderly parents such as financial or medical ones.

You can’t just decide to become your elderly parents’ guardian and that’s it. You have to go through the legal steps. 

To even be eligible for guardianship, you must prove that your senior parent is incapacitated. This isn’t a matter of opinion, either. If you don’t have a letter from a physician proving as much, then you can’t become your elderly parents’ guardian.

You must also prove that you’re fit for the role of guardian, so you will be put under the microscope as well, so to speak. 

Different states have different rules for obtaining guardianship. Since the rules are not the same across the country, you’d have to read up on the rules in your state (or hire an elder law attorney) and then go from there. 

The process typically begins once you apply for guardianship. There would then be a court investigation as well as a hearing. 

The entire process can take months, so it’s anything but a quick fix. Plus, once you take on the role of guardian, you must be prepared to fulfill the role for the sake of your elderly parents.

It’s a viable option if your elderly parents are in serious trouble and refuse help, but you must be aware of what you’re getting into before you pursue guardianship. 

Can An Elderly Parent Be Forced Into Care?

Okay, so maybe instead of applying for guardianship, you think you’ll just force your elderly parents into assisted living or a nursing home. This way, they get the care they need and you don’t have to involve the courts.

It’s a good thought, but it won’t work.

You must be a senior’s guardian or be capable of proving the physical difficulties and/or cognitive decline of your elderly parent in order to force their hand and get them enrolled in a nursing home.

Even if one or both of your senior parents have dementia or Alzheimer’s, the choices they make are their own, provided they’re legally capable of doing so. That’s according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Wrapping Things Up

Getting an aging parent to accept help can be a difficult process. When they refuse the help they so desperately need, you can find yourself feeling frustrated and stuck. You can’t make your parents do anything unless you become their guardian, and that’s a huge responsibility to undertake.

In the long run, you really only have two options outside of legal guardianship. They are either having a family meeting (or several) to discuss your parent’s safety and their physical health, or accepting their decision.

I hope the information in this guide helps you navigate through this troublesome time!  

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