What To Do When Your Elderly Parent Refuses Care

Supporting your ageing parents can be tricky, especially if you’re an only child or the only child taking on the responsibilities. Here’s how to navigate things when your parents are refusing the extra help.
What To Do When Your Elderly Parent Refuses Care

So, you’ve asked – okay, maybe even begged – for your ageing parents to organise or accept some help. You know, with cooking, cleaning, getting around, etc. (The list goes on.) The only problem is, your parents aren’t budging and insist that they’re fine! While some may call it denial, others prefer a more nuanced take on the topic. After all, accepting extra care as we age can bring up a whole host of emotions. It can mess with our pride, make us feel less independent, and even be embarrassing for some individuals. 

Ageing aside, it can be tough to admit that we need help even to ourselves, let alone to others – in any situation. This is why it can be tricky for adult children to get through to their ageing parents about organising some extra help around the house and beyond. If you’re wondering how to get through to your parents, here are some good ways to go about it:

Look at the whole picture, and plan.

Before broaching the topic with your parents, review their living conditions, how active and social they are, and their physical and mental health. How independent are they, and what kind of help would benefit them? Knowing exactly what services you could discuss may help you to navigate the conversation, for when the time comes. Finally, you could plan and practise what you’d like to say, so you’re not lost for words when the situation does arise.

Don’t dwell on the negatives.

Sure, you could tell your parents all about what they’re struggling to do, but that could inflame the situation. Rather than singling out their limitations, talk about their values and what they would like to be doing more of.

If they have independent-type personalities, you could stress that allowing some occasional help could give them more time to do the activities they love. Additionally, instead of outwardly stating that they need a carer, you could amp up the social benefits of having a companion around the house, too. 

Open up about how your parental responsibilities are affecting you.

It’s normal to feel worried about your parents as they age, but most parents don’t want their children to feel this sense of worry. Try reframing the situation and making it about you (and your siblings, if you have any). Most parents wouldn’t be thrilled about becoming a burden on their children. So, if you talk about your needs, this could convince them to accept help.

Call the experts.

Need reinforcements? Ask your community for help if you need to. You could chat with your parent’s primary healthcare practitioner, a friend, or even a religious leader that they admire and respect.

It’s important for you (or your siblings) to speak to your parents first. However, your parents may be more responsive once they hear from other respected people in their lives and hear other perspectives. 

Start small and compromise.

If all else fails, it’s time for negotiations… i.e., you may need to compromise. Start small, and give your parents options. Perhaps they just don’t want someone in their house. Fine. But maybe they can agree to some help with transport to appointments, or regular assistance in the supermarket.

Before you broach the topic with your parents, you could draw up a list of services you would like them to consider, and ask them to choose a few from the list. This also places the power back into their hands. (How good is feeling empowered?!)

Wrap up 

If after all your efforts, your parents still won’t accept help, the best thing to do is (breathe deeply) and accept the situation. As defeating as this may be, it is their life and their decision. Continue to offer any support you can. With time, they may realise on their own that the extra help could benefit their lifestyle. For now, try to spend time with your parents, and continue to show up for them when you can. Just remember, you’re doing great … and as hard as it is to instigate these tough conversations, at the end of the day, it shows that you care.

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