Tips for Understanding Elderly Parents Who Refuse Help


One of the most stressful experiences any adult child can go through is having an aging parent who refuses to move into an assisted living or memory care facility. This is compounded if s/he is also resistant to bring licensed care into the home.

In the worst case scenario, it requires the eventual and inevitable emergency that forces everyone’s hands. This is the last thing we want for those we love.

Tips For Understanding Elderly Parents Who Refuse Help

With a gentle and consistent approach, you may be surprised at the opportunities available for you to convince your parents to say “yes,” to the help both they – and you – so desperately need at this stage in life.

Continue reading to learn some helpful tips for understanding elderly parents who have refused to accept help.

Start the conversation and cease whenever emotions get too heavy

In a perfect world, all of us would create our own senior care plan when we are middle-aged and further removed from the often slow and methodical senior-aging process.

If memory issues aren’t a concern, meaning dementia or Alzheimer’s isn’t in the picture, see if you can get your parents to create their “senior care plan” even though you know they already need it.

Frame it around the idea of, “what do you see happening when/if…”

  • You can’t legally drive anymore?
  • You aren’t able to run errands and grocery shop?
  • Making meals is increasingly difficult?
  • Housework becomes challenging?
  • There’s nobody to take you to medical/dental appointments?
  • It’s harder to keep track of the days of the week and your medications?
  • This gives your loved one complete autonomy in their answers and yields a foundation for the conversation.

If emotions run high, table the conversation and return to it again later. Often, that stubborn and seemingly illogical resistance is 100 percent based on fear and the difficulty in surrendering to the reality of aging and looming death. If you press, those feelings remain stuck.

However, if you are honest and centered in your thoughts/feelings, and you provide time/space for your parent(s) to process the questions and ideas – they may surprise you with a gradual “come around.”

Remind them their independence depends on proactive senior support

In addition to fear, seniors don’t want to give up their independence and quality of life; who would? This is the central theme to keep in mind.

All of these difficult ideas and suggestions you’re presenting are actually in alignment with their goals.

The good news for them (and you!) is that studies repeatedly show seniors who choose to age-in-place, enlisting the help of licensed caregivers and others to support that mission, lead healthier, happier, and more independent lives than those who don’t.

Do they want to fall, break a hip, have a traumatic brain injury, become weak from malnutrition because they can’t shop/cook complete meals anymore, scale back on social interactions and engagements because they don’t have transportation, etc.?

All of this is avoided by customizing in-home care on an as-needed basis, that can be increased or decreased depending on the relevant needs.

Read them the signs seniors need assistance to remain at home

If you search the internet for the “signs aging parents need assistance…,” you’ll come across thousands of articles written by geriatric experts (physicians, AARP, National Council on Aging, etc.).

Read 10 Signs Your Parents Need Assistance To Safely Live At Home, to see an example. Reading this together may help them see they are right on the cusp – or have crossed over – and need to think about their future care/support network.

Make it all about (financial) business

What if your parents were in a car accident or experienced a sudden illness or episode, rendering them unable to speak or make decisions. Are they prepared for that? If not, this is the perfect time to drop the “you need help” story and instead reframe as, “I need to know what the financial picture is if anything were to happen to you.”

Our post, Financial Planning For Your Senior Parents, can give you some ideas.

Out of this conversation, it’s important that you or someone close to the family is established as the Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) and that a Living Trust or will is in place. The DPOA is essential if dementia or other memory issues rear up that solidify a parent’s resistance to moving into assisted living or getting in-home care.

Aging-in-place via homecare services is markedly more affordable than accident-related hospital bills or assisted living facilities. As an added bonus, you don’t have to go through the transition of moving your elderly parent. Instead, they can continue living at home with customized live-in care services, like those provided by Georgetown Home Care.

Enlist the help of other family members or friends

How open were you to being told what to do while growing up? Odds are, you were more willing to listen to other family members or your friends’ parents. The same is true in reverse; parents are often triggered when being “told what to do” by adult children.

If, however, you share your concerns with a few trusted friends, family members, clergy or spiritual advisors, etc., you may find a willing team of creative and savvy “participants” who casually guide your parent(s) into exploring the same concerns/ideas without the triggers and pressure that your talks elicit.

Seek professional therapy to help you with your boundaries

Who’s taking care of your parents in this interim of “they need help but won’t accept it?” If you’re the one running yourself ragged, feeling guilty about what you aren’t able to do (especially true for those in the Sandwich Generation – caught between aging parents and children living at home) – you need objective support yourself.

This is a good time to find a professional therapist who can help you determine your role in this process. The reality is that you can’t make your parents do anything they refuse to do while of sound mind and body. Your therapist will help you establish where your boundaries are – and provide the tools and practices you can use to maintain those boundaries.

Understanding Demanding Elderly Parents

Ultimately, in the grand scheme of things, you are only in control of yourself and your own decisions.

Hopefully, these tips will facilitate the process as you get the support your aging parents need, whether that means hiring a licensed home care agency or moving them into an assisted living facility.

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