how to deal with an elderly parent who refuses help

How to Deal with an Elderly Parent Who Refuses Help

Dealing with an elderly parent who refuses help can be a challenging and emotionally draining experience. While many elderly parents value their independence and find it hard to accept the help they need, it’s crucial to ensure their wellbeing. In this article, we provide tips to help you understand why your elderly parent may refuse help, identify signs they need assistance, communicate effectively with them, and ensure their overall wellbeing.

Understanding Why an Elderly Parent Refuses Help

Before delving into how to deal with elderly parents who refuse help, it’s crucial to understand some reasons why they may reject assistance.

Fear and Anxiety

Elderly parents may reject outside help because of anxiety related to the introduction of strangers into their lives. They may also fear losing control over their personal care or the possibility of exploitation by unscrupulous caregivers. Therefore, addressing your parent’s concerns and discussing any fears that they might have about accepting help is essential in gaining their trust.

Loss of Privacy and Independence

Elderly parents may view accepting assistance as a sign that they are losing control over their lives. This is especially true if they require intensive support or medical care. It is essential to have open communication channels with them about how receiving help can improve the quality of their life while also preserving their independence and dignity.

Denial or Lack of Awareness of Their Situation

Sometimes elderly parents don’t see the need for assistance because they are unaware of or in denial about the extent of their challenges. As family members, we mustn’t belittle or invalidate our parent’s feelings but rather listen actively and probe gently to better understand their perspective.

Difficulty Accepting Help from Family Members

Some elderly parents feel uncomfortable about accepting assistance from their children or other family members. They may prefer to preserve their family relationships by not burdening them with any additional duties. However, offering help to your parent is an essential aspect of familial responsibilities and should have a calming attitude that makes them feel valued and heard.

Signs Your Elderly Parent Needs Help

The following signs may indicate that your elderly parent requires additional care:

Signs for Physical Well-being

  • A decline in personal hygiene and grooming habits
  • Difficulty in moving around freely or performing regular household chores
  • Acquiring unintentional injuries (Bruises, cuts, and scratches)
  • Dramatic weight changes leading to malnutrition or obesity
  • Frequent fatigue and tiredness
  • Difficulty hearing, low vision or inability to see/hear at all
  • Symptoms of chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension needing medication management

Signs for Cognitive and Emotional Well-being

  • Memory loss or forgetfulness beyond the usual levels
  • Confusion and disorientation when performing tasks they used to handle without issues
  • Mood swings such as depression, agitation, or irritability
  • Social withdrawal from friends and family supportive network
  • Falling asleep quickly at strange times during the day/Insomnia at night.

Strategies for Communicating with Elderly Parents

To encourage your elderly parent to accept help, effective communication is key. Some useful techniques that you can use include:

Approach and Mindset

Showing empathy and patience whenever you engage with your elderly parent will help you gain their trust and make them feel comfortable sharing their fears, worries, and concerns.

Conversation Techniques

  • Ask rather than tell: Ask open-ended questions to determine their perspective on the issue rather than dictating what you think.
  • Active Listening: Be present and listen actively to what they say, avoid interruption.
  • Acknowledgement: Validate your elderly parent’s feelings and be respectful of their wishes.

Managing Resistance to Help

  • Negotiating: Use a collaborative approach that emphasizes the positive aspects of getting help. Offer alternative options, including support from family or caregivers.
  • Identifying Preferences: Identify what kind of assistance they want, this helps prioritize and tailor care options best suited for them.

Strategies for Providing Help to Your Elderly Parent

When it comes to providing your elderly parent with support, you have several options at your disposal, both formal and informal.

Formal Care Options

If you cannot provide the amount of care and assistance required due to other commitments or work obligations, involving Home Health Aides or professional caretakers is an option.

Informal Care Options

  • Families can work out arrangements so that each person takes turns caring for their aging parents or sharing costs of hiring a caregiver.
  • Community organizations such as Aging Services provides a network of resources that soothes concerns by providing home maintenance services, home health care aides or providing transportation services.
  • Veterans’ Affairs has programs for veterans seeking medical care or advice concerning specific health issues related to aging.

Tips for Ensuring Your Own Well-being as a Caregiver

Caring for an elderly parent can be an emotionally and physically draining task, so it’s crucial to prioritize your well-being. Some tips to avoid burnout are:

  • Set boundaries that allow you to take breaks
  • Include self-care activities such as getting enough sleep, eating healthy meals, exercising daily or regularly participating in social activities that support a better mental state.
  • Allow yourself some personal time to do things that bring satisfaction and relaxation. It could mean reading a book or going to see a movie. Whichever activity you choose should help recharge your energy and give you renewed enthusiasm for future care periods.


When it comes to ensuring the wellbeing of elderly parents who refuse help, patience, empathy, and effective communication skills are crucial. Understanding the reasons behind their refusal to accept help is essential, as is identifying signs when they require extra assistance. By taking the necessary measures and seeking out support from various formal or informal resources available, we can significantly improve their quality of life. Remember that as much as it is important to ensure the wellbeing of your elderly parent, prioritizing your own wellbeing as the caregiver is as paramount in the caregiving process.

How to deal with an elderly parent who refuses help

1. Why do elderly parents refuse help?

Elderly parents may refuse help for various reasons such as pride, fear of losing independence, or feeling like a burden.

2. What should I do if my elderly parent refuses help?

If your elderly parent refuses help, it is important to respect their wishes. However, you can engage in conversations with them about why they are unwilling to accept help and offer alternative solutions that they may be open to.

3. How can I make my elderly parent understand that they need help?

You can make your elderly parent understand that they need help by highlighting the benefits of accepting assistance, explaining the consequences of not getting help, and involving other family members or healthcare professionals in the conversation.

4. What are some signs that indicate my elderly parent needs help?

  • Difficulty with daily activities such as bathing or dressing
  • Poor hygiene or weight loss
  • Forgetfulness or confusion
  • Increased accidents or falls
  • Social isolation or withdrawal

5. How can I provide assistance without making my elderly parent feel like a burden?

You can provide assistance without making your elderly parent feel like a burden by involving them in decision-making, using positive language, and focusing on their strengths rather than weaknesses.

6. What resources are available to support me and my elderly parent?

  • Caregiver support groups
  • In-home caregiving services
  • Geriatric care managers
  • Community resources such as meal delivery or transportation services
  • Counseling or therapy services

7. When is it time to consider professional care for my elderly parent?

You should consider professional care for your elderly parent when their needs exceed what can be provided by family members or in-home caregivers, and when their safety or well-being are at risk.

keys takeaways

How to Deal with an Elderly Parent Who Refuses Help

It’s not unusual for aging parents to resist receiving help despite their needs. Here are four key takeaways on how to deal with stubborn elderly parents:

  1. Be respectful and understanding: Avoid being judgmental or patronizing when talking to your parent about their resistance to help. Listen to their reasons and acknowledge their feelings.
  2. Educate yourself: Learn about the resources and options available for elderly care in your area. Don’t assume your parent knows what is available and make sure you explain these options to them.
  3. Negotiate: Don’t force anything onto your parent, but suggest small steps. Negotiate a trial period for the help, or offer some independence by allowing them to choose who will assist them. Be flexible in finding a middle ground that works for both of you.
  4. Seek support: Take care of yourself too and don’t try to handle everything alone. Consider seeking advice from support groups or professionals who specialize in elder care.

With patience, empathy, and proper support, it’s possible to encourage your stubborn elderly parent to accept the help they need.

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