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How To Support Your Aging Parent When They Refuse Help

It may take a bit of a struggle, but when you notice that mom or dad is struggling mentally, physically or cognitively, then it’s time to get them professional support. But this realization is just the first side of a coin. Their cooperation is the other side and this is where a lot of adult children struggle. 

If a parent obviously needs help and they refuse to accommodate the thought, what can you do about it?

Talk to Your Aging Parent About Needing Help

Aging Parent

No one is ever truly ready for care role reversal with their parents. You are now responsible for those who cared for you. They taught you personal hygiene and now need help with grooming and getting dressed. They taught you to drive and now need help with their mobility. 

Without assistance, they may forget to take their medications and need help with their grocery shopping. The subject of help when it comes to your elderly parents isn’t only about their cooperation but also your acceptance. 

You will be tempted to doubt your observations and avoid the conversation, but putting it off may only worsen the situation in the long-run. At first, the need to assist your aging parents may appear like something that you can handle and add to your growing to-do list as an adult. 

Then you quickly realize that you may not be able to provide the best help for them and this may put you and your parents at risk. Having candid conversations about getting assistance for your aging parents will help you streamline the time you have for them on important things.

Instead of cleaning after them, preparing their meals or mowing their lawns, you can simply visit them, check-up on their welfare and bond more deeply with them. Otherwise, caring for your aged parents when you are ill-prepared for it can cause your own health to deteriorate and reduce the quality of your time and relationships.

It is such an important task that can lead to anxiety, pain and depression if you have to face it yourself or if your parents are refusing your efforts to hire professionals to handle it, especially if you’re particular about providing personal attention and professional expertise.

Ultimately, speaking with empathy, trying to understand why your parents may be against the idea and doing this as soon as possible instead of struggling to provide support that is outside your capacity will be a more productive way to handle the situation.

Most times, sidestepping the issue of getting the help your parents need and managing the status quo results in burnout that affects your existing relationship with your parents. At the end of the day, the outcome is a no-win situation.

Aging Parent: Addressing the Barriers to Accepting Help

We don’t have to have aged ourselves to understand the challenges that aging poses. But we may have to experience it to appreciate the emotional impact of the process. When addressing your aging parent’s reservation towards help, the first part to unravel is their feelings and fear regarding the situation. 

Before you write their attitude off as “difficult” or “stubborn,” what are their fears? What do they really think is going on when you invite a stranger to their home to be a part of their daily lives or if you send them to a strange place because of their welfare? 

A lot of older adults regard attempts to get care for them as the first step in social isolation and this makes them prone to illnesses and depression. Aging is a new experience with new challenges for your parents. It comes with a unique set of thoughts, feelings, fears and meaning.

Most times, children who take this phase of their support seriously discover that a major concern aging parents have is to not become a reason to worry or a burden on their children. You can’t penetrate their walls of resistance from the outside. You need to understand their perspectives to gain access to the barriers and get them to welcome your approach. 

Here are specific steps to build a bridge for your aging parents to accept help:

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Search beyond the surface

Get to the root of why your aging parent is refusing help. Are they afraid to lose their autonomy? Do they think you are taking control of their lives? Are they concerned about the financial cost? Don’t just assume you know why your parents are saying no to care. Ask them and be sure of their concerns. 

Acknowledge their autonomy

Freedom is important to every adult, even when they are aging. You need to understand the weight of your parent’s independence and autonomy. Don’t lord your decisions over them because you think it is in their best interest. 

Ask for their opinions, give them options, involve them in every stage of the decision-making process, give them time to deliberate on options, share examples to encourage them and where possible, invite them to directly talk to professionals and do their own research. 

Understand the cycle

Remember when you were a teenager and you thought your parents didn’t understand you, even though you meant well? Well, you’re back to that point with your elderly parents – only that the roles are now reversed. 

What you need the most is understanding, compassion and lots of patience. The first help to offer your aging parents is to give them time to sync with this new phase of their lives.

Build trust

It is easy to expect your parents to play along because you are their precious child and would never do anything to hurt them. So you get offended if they refuse to go with the flow. Another strategy is to win them over with partial truths and tricks in order to avoid confrontation. 

These routes may seem easier, but they never work out in the long-term. Getting your aging parents to accept help may be difficult, but the situation is made incredibly worse if you use manipulative tactics to have your way. 

Be honest with yourself and your parents. Deal with the feelings of inadequacy that may arise because of their resistance and trust in your ability to win them over to your side. Honesty is still the best policy even in getting your aging parents to accept professional help.

Offering Professional Assistance

Aging Parent: Focus on their needs

The issue of help is sensitive as it’ll make your aging parent feel their independence is being threatened. So, during your conversation, focus on them. Put yourself in their shoes and understand how to communicate the benefits of the decision to them. 

Listen to them, not to respond but to understand. Consider their self-image and feelings. Your job is not to invalidate any of their reservations but to persuade them to see things from a different light. 

Talk about how they need help with the daily tasks so that they can have more energy to spend with their precious grandchildren, relatives and family members. Help them to understand how being supported in their own home still means they are very much in charge, only that they get to enjoy their daily lifestyles without the struggles. 

Prepare for the conversation about support

Do your homework before you start the conversation. It is about fundamental changes to your parent’s lifestyle and must be done with utmost diligence. When they see that you have taken their fears and worries into consideration, the conversation is likely to go more smoothly than if you start unprepared. 

Your confidence, certainty and compassion can allay their fears and persuade them to embrace your suggestions. If possible, speak with their doctors to know what will work best for them. Part of preparation is choosing when and where to have the conversation. 

You need your aging parent to feel calm and centered during the conversation, so choose a place that is free of distractions but also familiar to them. Choose a neutral and uneventful time so you can have their full concentration and introduce the idea. 

Aging Parent: Give it time

No one welcomes an overnight change to their life, except they’re winning the lottery. Stay positive and patient as your aging parent takes their time to welcome the help you are offering. Keep the discussion alive though and update the information at their disposal to retain their interest. 

Make sure you avoid arguing with them. Also, avoid interrupting them even if it seems they haven’t been listening to you. Don’t raise your voice either or lash out at them. Your patience alone can persuade them where your words have failed, so don’t run out of it.

What to Do If the Refusal Persists

Expect initial rejection and reluctance. This changes with time as your aging parent comes to realize the assistance is good for their safety and health. Where your words don’t change their stance and progress is not being made, you may have to explore legal options. 

The legal option is only available for parents the law considers ‘gravely disabled’ and therefore a danger to themselves and others. In such a case, the court can intervene to place them under involuntary commitment. However, this path is usually expensive and undesirable. The only other option is to accept their refusal as they have the ability to make that decision. 

Have you successfully convinced your aging parent on the need for professional care or do you need the input of experienced caregivers to put forward a convincing argument? Call: (410) 267-8653  or fill this form on our website.