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My Elderly Parent Refuses Assisted Living

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You and the rest of your siblings can see it, but your aging parent refuses to admit they can no longer live on their own. You’ve spent time researching and interviewing assisted living facilities, yet anytime you try to bring up moving into one, your stubborn parent shuts you down.

What can you do in a situation like this?

If your elderly parent refuses assisted living, try these methods:

  • Don’t be pushy
  • Share your feelings on the matter, such as worries about your parent’s safety
  • Emphasize that it’s your senior’s choice so they feel in control
  • Have trusted loved ones intervene
  • Take your parent to see some senior housing options
  • If all else fails, seek an elder care lawyer 

It’s a very difficult position to be in when you have to tell an older person that they require professional care, but they fight you at every turn. This article will be your guide to handling the matter with the delicateness it requires, so keep reading! 

How Do You Know When It’s Time To Put Your Parent In A Nursing Home?

First, you might be wrestling with your decision to put your elderly mom or dad in assisted living or a nursing home. You wonder if you’re just jumping the gun. Then again, you don’t want to wait too long if it really is in their best interests to move.

Fortunately, you don’t have to have this difficult conversation based solely on guesswork.

There are signs that you can rely on that indicate your senior parent or parents can no longer take care of themselves.

The House Is Always Messy

If this was 10 years ago, your parents’ house would have been immaculate. They wouldn’t have even considered inviting someone over without the family home being clean from top to bottom. 

These days, however, the place is a mess whenever you drop by. What started as a bit of negligence has morphed into worsening conditions. The house looks like a pigsty. 

You try to subtly clean up here and there where you can, but if your parent happens to notice, they’ll yell at you and tell you they can do it themselves.

Yet when you leave, nothing changes. If anything, the home environment gets worse and worse every time you come over. It is clear that no one’s taking care of it anymore because your elderly parent is physically incapable of doing so. 

Your Parent Skips Their Medication

Your parent has a couple of chronic medical conditions and takes a bevy of medications every day. Some of the medications are very important, which is why it frustrates you to no end to hear that your parent isn’t taking their medicine. 

Usually, this isn’t a conscious choice on the part of older adults.

One or both of your parents might be experiencing absent-mindedness at their age. A medication reminder might be helpful, however, this forgetfulness could be the first signs of a cognitive decline. It could also be the beginning of a cognitive impairment, like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, so it’s probably worth looking into.

Getting Around The House Is A Problem

It’s not just the mess that hinders your parent. Even in open spaces, they don’t seem to move around much. Most of their stuff is downstairs because climbing stairs is a problem. They might only go to the kitchen or bathroom and then back to the living room.

Once older people cannot get around on their own two feet, assisted living becomes a viable option. 

Your Parent Isn’t Maintaining Their Personal Hygiene 

Another sign that your senior parent is ready for assisted living or a nursing home is the lack of attention paid to their personal hygiene.

This could be a mobility issue. After all, when elderly people can barely get around the house, then standing up to shower is going to be very difficult. They might only have the energy to do this occasionally. 

Changing their clothes can be tough if their hand dexterity has degraded. Your parent might have a hard time buttoning and unbuttoning and zippering and unzipping their clothes. Even holding a toothbrush can prove challenging in this condition.  

Can Family Members Be Held Liable For Allowing An Elderly Parent To Live Alone?

Let’s present a hypothetical situation in this section.

What if you’re aware that one or both of your senior parents is having issues with mobility and being able to perform their normal activities of daily living.

You know the house they’re living in continues to decline in cleanliness, yet you decide to let them live alone.

Perhaps it’s not really your choice. A difficult older parent can be extra stubborn and refuse to even consider your point of view. Regardless of the reason, the assisted living community your parent needs is not on the table.

If adult children continue to let a senior parent live by themselves and something happens to them, are they liable in such cases? What about any siblings or other involved family members?

No, you nor your family would not be liable in most instances. The exception is if you’re the legal guardian or primary caregiver of your senior parent. Then yes, their care is your responsibility, and failing to fulfill the duties of that responsibility could result in liability. 

What about filial responsibility laws?

Under filial law, an adult child is legally required to care for their parent, but only from a financial standpoint. For instance, if a parent doesn’t have much money and is unable to pay for themselves due to impoverishment, then it would fall on the child to pay for their necessities.

Filial law is not a blanket rule throughout the United States, but 30 states do have some form of filial law.

Even still, filial law usually does not apply to any other areas of parental care outside of financial support, so it’s not pertinent in this instance. 

Can An Elderly Parent Be Forced Into Assisted Living?

You’re feeling very frustrated with your elderly parents. Daily tasks are too difficult for them and their quality of life is suffering. They can’t live on their own anymore, and you’re not the only one who’s told them that.

Or maybe you’re being run ragged as their primary caregiver and you feel like you are giving up your life for them.

You know that the best decision under the circumstances is to move them into assisted living. Yet despite your protests, your parents won’t budge on their position. They want to continue taking care of themselves. 

You’re not sure what else to do. You’ve gone around and around the block on this issue and nothing is changing. Can’t you just force your senior parent into an assisted living community? 

Well, technically, yes, but in most cases, no. 

An assisted living facility is not a prison. It’s a place where seniors voluntarily choose to live (or are encouraged to live) for as long as they’re willing to stay. 

However, in some instances, we understand that there’s a need to supersede your senior parent’s desires. For example, if your elderly mother is living with you but she turned the stove on in the middle of the night and caused a fire, that’s a very serious situation. 

Even if your mother doesn’t want to move into assisted living, it’s clear that you can no longer continue to care for her in your home or have her live without assistance from a caregiver

The only way you could put an elderly person into assisted living or a nursing home against their will is by becoming their guardian or conservator.

As a guardian of your senior parent, you’d be able to make decisions regarding their living situation as well as manage their medical care and finances.

It’s not easy to win guardianship. You’d have to prove your senior parent is incapable of caring for themselves and that their mental health is poor enough that sound decision-making is also impossible. 

If a judge deemed your senior parent capable of caring for and thinking for themselves, then they could choose to live how they want, even if it’s not a good idea. 

Even if you were deemed the guardian of your senior parent, the process can take months to finalize and it’s often expensive. In the meantime, you’d still have to contend with the current living issues with your elderly parent. 

How Do You Move An Unwilling Parent To Assisted Living? 

It might not necessarily be that your senior parent is fully against living in an assisted living community. They just don’t want to feel like they’re being forced into it.

One of the most challenging aspects of helping your parent find the right assisted living community for them involves the emotion surrounding this change. They might be completely open to the idea and happy to consider any facility that you think would be acceptable. However, it is more likely that they are going to have at least a few apprehensions about the topic – or they might even be downright against the idea.

As we mentioned in the intro, there are some steps you can take to soften your approach so your parent might be more willing to hear you out.

Change Your Tone

We know you’re frustrated, annoyed, and upset, but you can’t walk into a conversation with your senior parent expressing those feelings. Instead of trying to strong arm a decision out of them, be gentle with your mom or dad.

The first step is to have an open conversation and ask them questions rather than bark demands.

For example, ask them why they don’t want to live in assisted living. Is it leaving their own, familiar home that’s hard? Do they not want to admit that they’re getting older and can’t take care of themselves anymore? Are they afraid they won’t receive adequate care?

Once you get to the root of the issue, you can respond to your parent’s concerns. That might make them more agreeable to your proposition. 

Speak From The Heart

Have you ever sat down and told your elderly parent how you really feel? If not, then take this time to express your true feelings.

Don’t be accusatory; speak factually. Tell them how you worry about their well being because you know they can’t get around much or that they’re not taking their medication. Mention how you’re concerned they’re going to slip and break a bone and no one will be there to help. If

Once your senior parent knows how you feel, it may change their mind about pursuing assisted living. 

Enlist Others

You don’t have to have this tough conversation alone. You should definitely invite your adult siblings or other trusted family members into the fold. They too can share how they feel so your senior parent realizes the number of people their decision is impacting.

Keep in mind that this isn’t an intervention. Everyone has to go into the conversation with the right attitude, which–once again–is to be gentle, not accusatory. If your senior parent feels ganged up on, you’ll only reinforce their decision more. 

Another person your parent might listen to is a trusted physician, such as your parent’s doctor. Sometimes hearing from health professionals suddenly makes everything okay.

Your parent may think you are being overly critical of their inability to care for themself, but they may view a doctor’s intervention as being based in medical knowledge and therefore more credible.

A doctor might also request that a social worker or occupational therapist visit your parents home to confirm your concerns, which may help convince your parents to move.

Take Your Parent To See Some Senior Housing Options

When family caregivers start talking about moving seniors out of their own homes and into a facility, the senior often pictures a nursing home as the intended destination (often, the adult children do, too). They don’t realize there are many levels of care options for the elderly.

Your senior parent’s needs and their physical and mental capacity will determine the type of living arrangement that is the best choice for them.

The options for senior living range all the way from:

  • independent living in an apartment within a senior facility
  • to assisted living where someone checks on them frequently and helps with some daily living activities
  • and all the way up to a nursing home where a professional caregiver is with them the majority of the time.

If your parent only needs help with certain things (let’s say taking their medications and bathing and dressing), they do not need to be in a nursing home. They would do just fine in an assisted living facility, where they could maintain some sense of independence.

Read about the different housing options for seniors and see which one would be best for your parent. Then, research the ones in your area (or theirs). Set up tours of the places that seem like the best fit for your mom or dad and take them along to see these places.

Once they tour a few places they like, they may feel less threatened and more willing to discuss a move.

Just an idea. To make things much easier for a move, consider hiring a Senior Move Manager.

They can make the entire process so much smoother for everyone.

Let Your Parent Know It’s Ultimately Their Choice

Since you’re probably not legally their guardian, it is ultimately your senior parent’s choice whether they live in an assisted living facility or on their own. Ensure they know the control is in their hands so they feel like they have some power in the decision. 

It’s worth noting again that part of your parent’s refusal may be based in fear. They may worry they will no longer have a sense of purpose if they move into assisted living. They may be concerned that the place will be “institutional” instead of a warm, home-like environment.

It can be very difficult for elderly loved ones to make such a drastic change, even if they know it is the best option for them.

When my mom passed away, my dad refused to consider moving out of their home. He feared his loss of independence – but he also couldn’t continue to live 40 miles away from me. He wasn’t eating well, was losing weight, and he knew he needed additional help.

So, I investigated some assisted living facilities near me, looking for ones where I was sure he could feel comfortable.

I took him to visit one place during their “happy hour.” The pianist was playing Big Band-era music, people were gathered around, singing, and many residents cheerfully greeted us. They repeatedly told us how much they loved living in this complex.

I talked to him about the social isolation back at his home and how lively this crowd was.

It turned out that he was most frightened of being labeled as old and feeble and being “put in a home.”

When I offered some gentle reassurance that I would come over to act as a go-between (social director!) between him and his new neighbors, he agreed to move.

As it turned out, he loved the place and was very happy once he’d made the transition.

Seek An Elder Care Lawyer 

If all else fails and your senior parent still won’t budge, your last resort might be getting expert advice from an elder care lawyer. The lawyer can discuss your options with you and help you obtain guardianship if it is appropriate.


Deciding to move your elderly parent into assisted living or a long-term care facility is difficult. The decision can be compounded even further when your own parent disagrees with you.

We hope the information in this article helps you broach this sensitive subject in the best way possible. 

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