Senior Care Blog


When Elderly Parents Refuse Help
Posted by:

Therea Phillips, Client Care Manager for All Valley Senior Home Care in Walnut Creek, California shares some tips about what to do when an adult child caregiver’s elderly parents refuse outside help.

As our parents age we walk a fine line between making sure that they are taken care of and taking away their independence. All of a sudden children are now in the position of protecting their parents. They find themselves in a position of ensuring their parents environment is safe but also respecting their choices and decisions that they are still able to make. Unfortunately, if their parents are no longer able to make these important decisions it then can become a war of wills with elderly parents making their children feel guilty.

Understanding Why Parents Refuse Assistance

What has to be understood is some of the reasons why an elderly parent may act out and refuse assistance. It could be behind loss; The loss of a spouse or other family members, the loss of their independence, or it could be the loss of their youth and of feeling healthy and happy. Some of the defiance of accepting help could just be plain anger. The human nature of wanting and needing to blame someone else when things are going bad. It could also be the realization that they are sick and just can’t do the things they used to be able to.

The dynamics of a family of an elderly parent could have been years in the making. Sometimes guilt is a part of the family make up before the situation occurred that caused the need for help. When children and even non-family members become caregivers of elderly loved ones, they have to understand how that elderly person is feeling.

Many elderly women where brought up an era where they married, had having children and lived her whole life taking care of her home, her children and her husband. She has been brought up in an era where that is what the woman did and no one did that for her. Now to bring a stranger in to take care of her, her home and even sometimes to take care of her husband it is seen as a threat.

Many elderly men have been brought up in an era where men were men. He was strong and independent. He was the bread winner, he took care of his family and made sure his family was safe. Now, there is someone coming into his home taking that away from him. He can feel in his own body that he doesn’t have the strength to take care of his family anymore and he can’t keep them safe, which can be very disheartening for him.

Approaching Your Elderly Parent

Every family is different but for the most part a lot of families were structured in this way when current generation of elderly people where younger. Unfortunately, sometimes just like their elderly parents had to do with them, adult children may have to put their foot down for the best interest and safety of their parents.

Approaching a loved one about needing help can be very uncomfortable to say the least. Here are some tips that can make the conversation go smoothly:

  • Have a meeting with siblings if there are any. Discuss what the outcome of the meeting will be. If the concerns are not urgent, then it is okay to say that; likewise, if the concerns are urgent it needs to be stated.
  • When speaking to aging parents it is best to focus on what they can still do, not what they can’t do.
  • Encourage your parents to continue doing what they can do, and to accept help with tasks they cannot do.
  • Timing of the conversation is crucial. Do not wait until there is a crisis to have the discussions. Trying to force a decision immediately seldom works. It is best to put a deadline on the calendar to come back and re-visit the discussion allowing time to process the information.
  • All family members need to be in “the same mind” for this discussion. If other family members are not in agreement, these members will work to undermine the efforts of others. To bring everyone to a single mindedness, family members can meet beforehand to discuss their feelings. If need be, third party can mediate this meeting to keep emotions in check.

Starting Senior Home Care Services

When you start senior home care services you will be bringing in a non-family caregiver; It is important to understand that if your parent acts up with the family member they may not necessarily act up with a non family caregiver. Also understand that in order to make the elderly parents environment safe and to make sure that you can take care of yourself an outside home care agency is sometimes needed and you should not feel guilty seeking their assistance.

The most important thing you can do is to be patient and understand that there has been a change in your love one’s life; Whether it is a loss of memory or having a life changing diagnosis. Look for senior home care agencies that help you understand your role as caregiver to your elderly parent or family member. Get help to learn to take care of yourself.

If you would like assistance or more information you can always call us at 1.866.775.0028, visit our Senior Home Care Agency Directory, or fill out this simple online form. Get Help Now!

Tags: ,

February 18th, 2010 | Posted by:

3 Responses to “When Elderly Parents Refuse Help”

  1. M K Howland says:

    My Mom is 96 yrs old. She has Progressive Bulbar Palsy which makes it
    impossible for her to talk. Communication is through a dry erase board. Up until a year ago she has been very independent. 95 going on 75! She is still very on top of it…Reads the paper every day, irons, folds clothes, loads and unloads dishwasher, etc., etc. This is her choice. I have recently told her…No more baths. I removed the plug so she wouldn’t take one while I was at work. (My husband stays with her, but he respects her privacy.) She is still upset about it and says I am cruel. I can’t make her understand that I love her and only care about her safety. Last night she wrote a note that said, “Please, watch me. I can do it.” with a little heart drawn next to it. The ensuing conversation with her lasted almost an hour, since we communicate back and forth by writing. What is the best approach to get through to her? Do you know of any article that might help me get through to her? Her cognitive abilities are still pretty much in tack. Although, her thoughts don’t always translate well to paper. Thank you so much for any help or reference you might refer me to. MK Howland

  2. jane corey says:

    My suggestion would be to either set aside a specific time where the daughter could be available to accompany her to the bath or hire a female caregiver to come in specifically to assist with a bath.
    The daughter needs to assure her mother that it is solely for her safety
    that she not bath without assistance and someone’s help.

  3. Kory Megis says:

    I think that getting in contact with the Alzheimer’s association would benefit her even though it doesn’t sound like she has Alzheimer’s but, they have programs that the daughter can participate in for free to help her communicate her concerns and receive suggestions from people with experience with communication barriers.
    If you call Kathy Welsh @ 775-786-8061, i am almost certain she will be able to assist you in any way she can and I’m sure she has some very good resources for you.
    Kory Megis

Leave a Reply