What to Do When Elderly Parents Refuse Help

Supporting aging parents comes with its own set of challenges. A big one is communication between the adult child and their parents about their care. When an elderly parent refuses help, it can become frustrating for both parties.

Luckily, there is help. 

You can do many things to speak your concerns better when elderly parents refuse help.

Understand Their Motivations

Aging is a complex process for everyone. Add to this the additional concerns that come with dementia and other mental health issues. Your elderly parents may have difficulty expressing their needs and emotions. 

Learning to tell your elderly parents they need help is not easy. Incorporating their feelings in the process helps. Letting them know you hear them can go a long way when they refuse help.

Helping to understand the root cause of their behavior can go a long way.

Some questions to ask yourself include:

  • Is this normal behavior for them
  • Are they worried about losing their independence
  • Are they suffering from depression or anxiety or dementia
  • Are they confused or suffering from dementia
  • What are things they may be fearing

Once you understand their concerns, you can work with your parents to help them see why they need help.

Accept the Situation

While you may have your parent’s best interest at heart, that’s great. But you must also remember that they are their own person. They are in control of their own life and care options.

While this may be a hard pill to swallow, you must accept whatever the situation is. Doing this will avoid damaging your relationship with your parent.

Pick Your Battles

Even if this nagging is real or perceived, you risk causing tension between you and your parent. The best thing you can do is avoid conversations about non-essential tasks (updating their phone, joining a health club, etc.). While they may be beneficial, don’t push the issue if they are not essential.

Instead, focus on the issues and tasks that need to get completed. Tasks that can benefit their physical and mental well-being should be top priorities. Also, not overwhelming them with many tasks at one time will make them feel less pressure from you.

Don’t Beat Yourself Up

Your parents are in charge of their own decisions, even if they make poor ones. The only thing you can do is accept the situation, observe them, and step in to help when needed.

If your parents still have the mental capacity to make their own choices, it is crucial to allow them to do so. Over-managing may cause more tension and issues. If your parents are stubborn, they may do what they want to show that they can still make their own choices.

The most important thing to do in these situations is not to feel blamed when these things happen. You can only do so much, and if you beat yourself up about it, you will do no good for yourself or them. You have to be willing to let them make their own choices and deal with the consequences as they come.

If you have exhausted all avenues of advice and care on your end, you need to allow them to do what they wish. It is important to remember that they are still adults capable of making their own decisions.

Treat Your Aging Parents Like Adults

Even though it may seem that the roles have reversed, do not treat your elderly parents like children. It is much easier to deal with an elderly parent who refuses help when you treat them with dignity and respect.

Dealing with a stubborn elderly parent is not the same as dealing with a stubborn child. They have autonomy and should get treated as such. Treating your parents as a child will make your parents feel disrespected and do more harm than good.

Remember that the goal is to ensure that your parent receives the best care possible. Treating them with the respect they deserve is key to them cooperating with you. 

Ask Them to Do It for The Kids (or Grandkids)

Tell your elderly parents how their choices affect you or other loved ones. This step can go a long way to getting them to change their behavior—Voice your anxieties and concerns to them. Then let them know how these concerns may be alleviated if they take your advice.

If you have children of your own, you may remind your parents how they can increase their quality of time with them. This step could convince them to make lifestyle changes that improve their quality of life.

Avoid guilt trips when going this route, as this could cause resentment. And never use loved ones as a bargaining tool. For instance, “if you don’t quit smoking, you won’t ever see the grandkids again”). Such emotional manipulation is only going to breed negativity.

Allowing your elderly parents to see other perspectives about their actions is vital. Make sure it comes from a place of concern, though.

Find an Outlet for Your Feelings

When caring for your parent, it is natural to feel frustration, fear, and even anger. These emotions are especially relevant if your elderly parent is refusing help. 

Yet, it is important not to vent these feelings to or around them. Doing so can cause more damage than good as you may cause them to push away or feel like a burden.

Instead, seek out a friend, family member, therapist, or support group. Talking about your emotions in a safe environment is integral to self-care. If you are not taking care of yourself, you will have trouble caring for your elderly parents.

Include Them In Future Plans

Including your elderly parent in plans can be a big motivator to have them seek the care they need. 

If your parents suffer from memory issues, help them with their tasks and offer gentle reminders. Doing this can go a long way toward motivating them to get their care.

Significant life events are essential for all the family. 

Remind them of:

  • weddings
  • graduations
  • birthdays
  • etc. 

Write on their calendar and bring it up in conversation often. Keeping your parents in the loop on family events can be vital in getting them the help they need. 

Communication is Key

Communication is vital to getting your elderly parents the help they need. Listen and consider their wants and needs. Have open and frank conversations about your concerns. And remember, at the end of the day, they are adults that can make their own decisions. 

Please do your best to balance their wants and needs with medical professionals’ advice. This step can help make caring for your elderly parents a lot less stressful. Even if they don’t always take your advice, they will appreciate that you care.

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