What to Do When an Elderly Parent Refuses Help

Aug 3, 2021 8 min

6 tips that can help you to cope if an elderly parent refuses help, including different approaches to care, giving back control, and light-touch tech solutions.

How to move forward if an elderly parent refuses help

The slow realisation that your elderly parent needs more home help and closer monitoring can be a difficult and wrenching process filled with emotional challenges and practical implications.

Aside from wondering what caused the decline in health, one of the greatest challenges is addressing a resistance to accept help.

For many older people, particularly those who have lived independently their whole lives, accepting intrusions such as daily visits from a carer or wearing a personal alarm can feel both humiliating and unnecessary. From your loved one’s point of view, they might still be very capable of living on their own.

For an adult child, it can be hard to not feel exasperated at what may appear to be a case of total denial. Unfortunately, a combination of sensory deficits, closely guarded independence and pre-existing personality traits, can combine to create a full-fledged standoff. What’s happening at this point is a power-flip.

So what steps can you take to address this problem?

1. Make a rational diagnosis of the problem

First of all, understand what is causing the reluctance to seek help in logical and objective terms. It can be a perfectly legitimate response for your parent not to accept support in certain areas of their life, especially where privacy and dignity are valued.

Remember that care can be introduced slowly. There are lots of devices and gadgets available that can help your loved one to use the bathroom and get dressed on their own, which means that initially a carer could be brought in just to help around the house and provide company. After some time has passed it might then be easier to increase the care provided.

Find out more: Top Gadgets for Self Care

2. Understand their fears and anxieties

Your elderly parent will likely have deeply-held worries about their circumstances and may be terrified at the thought of losing their home or needing residential care.

However, if these beliefs extend to full-blown paranoia without a basis in reality, then consider whether the home environment may be contributing to this. Poor lighting, clutter or bad noise insulation can all make the situation worse. Help them to improve their home and clearly communicate that in doing so you’re helping them to stay put.

Find out more: 9 Elderly Care Tips to Stay Safe At Home

3. Give them back some control

For those of us who have stubborn parents, don’t get into a battle.

Keep conversations about care positive. You can also involve them in the decision making process. Discuss their care options, listen to their concerns, and reassure them that if they don’t get on with a carer, they won’t be forced to put up with them. With services like hometouch, you can view the profiles of carers before messaging them, so it might be worth going through them together. This involvement can help them to accept the next phase of their lives, without making them feel like decisions are bing made for them.

Find out more: How Do I Tell My Elderly Parent They Need Help?

4. Be aware of stigmatising effects of elderly care

A notable point is that many personal alarm devices can be stigmatising and actually worsen the problem they were designed to solve.

For instance, surveys have shown that many older people do not wish to invite people to their homes if they wear a pendant, as they’re worried about how they’ll be perceived. This can reinforce social isolation.

In this technological age there are many solutions. Discreet voice-activated devices can be placed in the corner of a room, allowing your loved one to call for help or even auto-dial the emergency services without having to wear their vulnerability around their neck.

Find out more: Home Safety Without a Carer

5. Be realistic about the risks

No doubt you will have had sleepless nights worrying about your elderly parent having a fall and being found after three days without anyone noticing. But ask yourself how realistic this is.

If you can involve neighbours and ask them to knock on the door a few times a week, that simple check-in can reduce these risks and give you some light touch visibility.

Find out more: How To Set Up a Caregiving Schedule

6. Accept that some carers may not be appropriate

What kind of people has your loved one socialised with over the course of their life? What do they enjoy talking about?

Care is about being able to connect on a personal level, it’s about building a trusting relationship. At hometouch we understand this, which is why our carer profiles come with a section about their personal interests. That way you know ahead of time if the carer shares your loved one’s passion for jazz music or baking.

Related topic  Elderly Diabetes Care

Whichever service you choose, it’s important to hold a trial session before committing long term. This will allow you and your loved one to find out whether or not it’s a good fit. Let’s face it, you wouldn’t marry a person without dating them first, and a carer client relationship can be very intimate.

Care options for elderly parents

If your patient constantly refuses certain kind of help, you can always give them alternatives. The problem is, the majority of the people don’t know about other care options. Here are some care options for elderly parents.

Living independently:

The majority of the people prefer to age at their place. All you can do is provide home help for elderly parents. Sometimes a small modification at the home can make a great difference, such as add a railing, install more comfortable faucets, update flooring and improve lighting, etc. To cater to the deteriorating health of your parents, you can also hire a professional caregiver.

Live-in care:

If your parent’s health and physique do not allow them to do their daily task easily and they don’t want to leave their place either, then this option is the most suitable for them. The professional caregiver helps with all daily activities, provides companionship and support.

Shifting your parents somewhere else:

You can ask your parents to move to a place near to your house or their caregiver’s place. They can also reside with you to get day-to-day care easily if both of you do not want an outside carer.

Care homes:

If you cannot provide care at the home and do not want to hire a caregiver, then you can consider care homes. These are homes designed specifically according to the needs of the elderly. They provide meals, round-the-clock monitoring, and all the basic facilities so that your parents can spend their remaining life peacefully.

Skilled nursing homes:

These are special care centres for elderly people with medical conditions. They provide care, support, and medical treatment to the elderly. They assist in daily living, provide food, help with ailments, and provide treatment under the supervision of licensed doctors. They have certified nurses available all the time for the provision of medical care. These centres also provide speech therapy, physical therapy, and sometimes occupational therapy.


How to deal with an elderly parent who refuses help?

With age, the brain shrinks in size, and resultantly intelligence, discernment, and judgment decreases. As a result, the elderly can become quite stubborn and it is difficult to make them understand many things, even those intended for their benefit. When your elderly parents refuse help instead of getting frustrated and angry, consider their feelings and the changes going on in their bodies. Here are some tips that can help you when elderly parents refuse help.

  • Try to identify the causes behind this behaviour. Understand what they are looking for and what is missing in your plan that is making them refuse help.
  • Acknowledge their decision. Don’t force your choice on them.
  • If they are constantly refusing, look for another possible alternative. Involve them in the care plan. Treat them like an adult.

What to do when elderly parents won’t listen?

When the elderly refuse care and show an inflexible attitude, you have to become more compassionate and understanding. First of all, accept the situation as all this is happening because of the ageing effect. Here you have to pay special attention to your feelings. Let them out in front of the right person so you are not overwhelmed. Do not hesitate to ask for help for yourself and your parents. You can also find companionship for them in the form of a caregiver who is an expert in handling stubborn elderly people.

When to move parents to assisted living?

Being a child, it is very difficult to understand and make a decision for assisted living for your parents. Here are some signs that clearly indicate your parents need assistance.

  • When the medical disease starts worsening and the severity of the clinical symptoms is affecting the quality of life.
  • When the health is deteriorating and your parents are showing clinical symptoms of ageing, such as frequent infections, hypothermia, bone pain, joint stiffness and mobility issues and stooped posture, etc.
  • When they need help with their daily domestic tasks.
  • When they are showing symptoms of dementia.
  • When the number of falls is increasing and they remain fatigued and feel weakness the entire day.
Related topic  Elderly Fall Prevention and Common Causes

How to get an elderly parent into a nursing home?

Caregivers are under the constant stress of providing the best service to their loved ones. Being a son/daughter the pressure of giving your parents care they deserve is real, and this pressure worsens when elderly parents refuse to go to the nursing home to get appropriate care. You may feel powerless, inundated, and frustrated because of this scenario. What you can do to get your elderly parents in the nursing home for their welfare is by obtaining their legal guardianship. As their guardian, you can take decisions on their behalf, such as getting them into a nursing home, for their benefit.

How to get power of attorney for parents with dementia?

Taking the power of attorney of your parents is a huge responsibility. Be very confident before you make this decision. Keep your motive clear and discuss it with your family. Involve your parents in it. Come to a conclusion then hire an attorney who is professional in elderly law to guide you through all the legal procedures.

Can I refuse to take my mum home from the hospital?

According to the NHS, you cannot refuse the discharge that the hospital has planned. The person has to pay all the bills, vacate the space and take away his/her beloved one from the hospital. However, if you feel you cannot provide the best care to your loved one at home, you can always go for an assisted live-in care or nursing home.

What to do when a dementia patient refuses care?

You have to be very cautious and thoughtful while dealing with a dementia patient. The intellect and memory are severely affected in dementia patients, therefore, they have problems understanding situations and are often very less cooperative. Making them accept they need help is difficult but not impossible. Treating them in a special way can make things easy. Here are few tips that can help you out in this regard:

  • Before discussing anything serious with them, make sure all their personal needs are fulfilled. They are not hungry, thirsty, sleepy, or want to go to the washroom.
  • Do not force them to do something or try to impose your decision on them. If they are being stubborn about something distract them from that topic.
  • If they are not listening at the moment give them space and talk about it later.
  • Be very gentle and compassionate. Talk as softly as you can. Don’t let your anger and frustration out on them. Treat them kindly but as a grown-up adult.
  • Keep simple options in front of them. Put your point clearly simply and understandably.

Can family members be held liable for allowing an elderly parent to live alone?

It is very rare that a family member is held accountable if an elderly parent refuses help and chooses to live independently. However, if the person had full responsibility for the parent or is a caregiver then he/ she will be held accountable for an elderly parent living alone and suffering any misfortune such as injury or murder.

Can I refuse to care for elderly parents?

Giving care is not an easy job especially assisting elderly parents who refuse help. It requires a lot of attention and is a huge responsibility in itself. Burn out is inevitable at some point. The peer pressure of what others will say if you refuse to care for your parents makes most of the people do what they cannot. But the truth is, you can refuse to take care of your elderly parents. It is not always necessary giving up your life to care for elderly parents.

Find out more caring for a parent:

Dr Jamie WilsonFounder and Chief Medical Officer at Hometouch

Dr Jamie Wilson is hometouch’s founder and Chief Medical Officer. Jamie’s creation of hometouch was inspired by his work as a dementia psychiatrist in the NHS, and he has written about healthcare issues in The Times and the Evening Standard. Jamie has a MBBS from the University of Leeds and has spent a decade in the NHS, working as a Psychiatric Registrar and Memory Specialist at Imperial College Hospital.

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