An elderly woman expressing reluctance and concern towards her aging husband's denial of needing support.

How To Effectively Deal With Aging Parents Who Are In Denial


Aging is a natural part of life, so the ideal outlook is to be proactive and plan ahead for a long-term care plan.

However, it can be challenging when aging parents are in denial or unwilling to discuss and address their growing need for assistance.

This article will address challenges and share solutions related to seniors who are in denial of their aging and increased need for support. We’ll help you process your emotions, frustrations, and intentions while providing valuable resources to support your aging parents

The bottom line is that unless you have a durable power of attorney or your parents have been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s–which allows you to establish guardianship–your ability to take action may be limited. If that’s the case, establish clear boundaries about what you are and are not able to do for your parents and be patient.

Ultimately, seniors are adults and have control regarding the help they will accept, difficult as that can be for their loved ones. With that in mind, here are some ways to deal with these tough situations. 

4 Ways To Handle Aging Parents In Denial

1. Gaining Valuable Insight from Therapists and Support Groups

Many older people struggle to accept their growing limitations and the reality of aging. However, when dealing with difficult elderly parents, they can easily co-opt their children or other relatives into enabling caregiving positions – and this is unhealthy for all parties involved.

It’s a slippery slope between “helping out occasionally” to becoming the primary caregiver for your aging parents. If you wish to avoid the latter, you’ll need to learn how to assert your boundaries clearly and compassionately.

Before planning a conversation or family intervention, it’s imperative that you become clear on what you are and are not willing to do in terms of caregiving for your parents.

Our post, Coping With Stress of Taking Care of Elderly Parents has more information on this topic.

The “good news” is that you are not alone. Professional therapists and support groups are tremendous support as you work through your personal, emotional landscape – as well as the practical realities of your schedule – assessing where your boundaries are when it comes to caregiving and how to deal with aging parents.

2. Use Peer Experiences as Segue to Guide Aging Parents

If your parents are reluctant to acknowledge their need for support or daily assistance and wellness checks, it’s likely that some of their friends who are older adults are going through similar challenges.  It may be injuries or health conditions requiring hospitalization, long-term rehabilitation, or even the transfer into an assisted living or memory care facility.

These shared experiences can serve as natural conversation starters to address and guide your parents into a “Long Term Plan: Part 1” conversation.

Express your genuine concern(s), worries, and fears using personal statements:

  • “I really worry that I won’t know what you want or what to do if you fell and broke your hip/hit your head/were in a car accident/suffered a stroke/etc. like Friend XX did…”
  • “Since I’m working full time (have kids at home, live too far, etc.), I know I can’t be a part-time caregiver when the time comes and you need help with meals, errands, etc., as Friend XX does. Can we explore the options now to see what’s available so that we can plan ahead?”
  • “As Friend XX’s children move her into a retirement home, I realize that I know absolutely nothing about your long-term care plan or financial situation and this worries me. I wouldn’t know where to start if something like that became necessary for you…”

While you understand that the time for these changes is now, using a friend’s situation as a reference point can make it easier to start gathering information about your parents’ potential needs for additional support and care. 

For more insights on financial planning for senior parents, consider reading ‘Financial Planning for Senior Parents’ to learn about important financial, and legal aspects to consider as your parents become more open to the idea.”

Read Financial Planning for Senior Parents to learn more about the types of input, information and financial and legal aspects to consider as your parents become more open to the idea.

3. Read “The Signs” to Your Parents

It’s crucial to share information with your parents regarding the clear indicators that suggest they might require additional assistance while living at home. Reputable elder-focused organizations like AARP and the National Institute on Aging have outlined these signs.

Visit 10 Signs Your Parents Need Assistance to Live At Home and identify if any of these signs apply or seem likely. Once you’ve done that, share the information with your parents and suggest reviewing it together. While it may not lead to an immediate change, presenting objective expert insights can help plant the seed of awareness.

Don’t expect a miracle, though. Keep in mind that it may take some time for this information to fully sink in as your parents come to terms with the reality of their situation.

4. Ask to Make their Home Safer and More Accessible

The worst-case scenarios often unfold when parents, unwilling to discuss their long-term care wishes and plans, suddenly experience injuries or significant health setbacks. In such situations, quick decisions must be made by their children or immediate family members.

While acute health issues are nearly impossible to control or prevent, there are things you can do to avoid fall accidents that are likely to cause hip or head injuries. Prioritizing home care is equally vital for ensuring the good health and safety of your aging parents.

Some of the easiest home modifications include:

  • Installing grab bars near the toilet, shower/bath areas
  • Ensuring motion-sensitive lighting is installed (and maintained) outdoors
  • Building a ramp as an alternative to the entryway steps or stairs
  • Reorganizing cupboards to keep frequently-used items as accessible as possible
  • An area to sit while working on dinner/meal prep and kitchen tasks
  • Slip-free flooring and securing (or removal) of trip hazards such as cords, area rugs, uneven thresholds, etc.

Reducing trip and fall hazards in the home can help prevent the most common accidents that may lead to crisis situations for you and your parents.

Support For Dealing With Aging Parents In Denial

If your parents’ position remains firm and they’re unwilling to address the issues, sometimes you have to step back and acknowledge that it’s ultimately their choice. Treat your parents as the adults they are and hope that the seeds you’ve planted will grow a little more time.

Learn more about how to deal with aging parents in these articles:

Filed under: