What To Do When Your Elderly Parent Refuses Needed Care

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Supporting an aging parent can be a challenging experience, especially when they can’t take care of themselves – even if they won’t admit it.

Maybe you’ve noticed them falling behind on mail, letting chores pile up, or miss doctor’s appointments. Maybe they’re becoming more forgetful, or even less physically capable. You suggest reaching out for professional care, but they refuse immediately. They insist they can take care of themselves, but you know they can’t, and the proof is in the pudding. More and more, the responsibility is falling on you. Unfortunately, this situation is all-too-common – a whopping 77% of adult children believe their senior parents are stubborn about taking their advice to receive help, according to a study published by Penn State University. Fortunately, there is hope.

Regardless of the condition of the home or physical condition, you cannot force your elderly parents to help if they are competent and able to make their own decisions. Aging parents have the right to refuse help – it’s true. But what to do if it is clear that your mother or father needs help? Without it, do you and your siblings constantly fear for your parents’ safety and health? Should you be expected to care for them on your own time?

In cases where it is abundantly clear that your parent needs help, it’s a good idea to sooner rather than later – until, God forbid, a major health crisis occurs. How do you get your parents to accept the help and care they need? First, we understand why refusal of help is so common among the elderly and how to calm their fears.

If your parent needs help, it’s a good idea to deal with it now rather than waiting until a major health emergency occurs. How do you get your parents to accept the help and care they need? You first need to understand where they’re coming from, and empathize. Aging is never easy, and many seniors struggle with losing some of their physical and mental capabilities. It may feel like the roles have reversed, where your parents now depend on you like you used to depend on them, but it’s important to remember that they’re still adults, and should be treated as such. Your parents’ autonomy is important to them, and it is beneficial to realize this. You have to approach them with love and compassion, and make the best case for why home care will help them, not hinder them.

In particular, a significant loss of identity and value is common as people age. Our society tends to view aging as a negative and undesirable situation. The stigma of aging is caused by unwanted symptoms: wrinkles, body aches, forgetfulness, sadness and a less active life than before. When our parents experience these unwanted changes, they can suddenly feel unwanted or undervalued as people. This feeling grows when their children or grandchildren – people younger than them – treat them in ways that conflict with the identity they have constructed as capable, independent adults. For example, children who speak louder or more slowly to their elderly grandparents can trigger feelings of “less than.”

Many seniors would rather stay in the comfort of their own home rather than move into a retirement community, which is a much bigger jump. For this reason, home care is a great option for a stubborn parent who is afraid of losing their independence. Hiring a home caregiver to help out with daily tasks, keeping your parent company, and with hours that you can choose yourself so it won’t be intrusive. Let your parents know about the benefit of a home caregiver, and if they are still resistant, encourage them to try out a small number of hours per week, just to see if it changes anything for them.