How to Get Elderly Parents to Accept Help

Millions of adult children and other family members are assuming caregiving roles for their aging relatives, according to the CDC. Unfortunately, not all older people will accept help, even if they desperately need it. This stubbornness leaves many well-intentioned family caregivers wondering what to do with an elderly parent who refuses help.

Why Do Elderly Parents Refuse Help?

To get aging family members to accept help, it’s important to first understand why they refuse help in the first place.

First and foremost is the possibility that they’re anxious.

There are plenty of reasons why someone can become frightened—and subsequently act out—in old age, including:

  1. They may experience new health issues or physical impairment, even though they’ve been healthy their whole life. This adjustment can be difficult for many people.
  2. They’re anxious that they may be put in a nursing home and no one will come to visit them.
  3. They may be dealing with a scary diagnosis, such as a confirmation of a progressive disease for which no cure exists. Such conditions include Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.
  4. They may be upset at loss of independence, as they may now need help with daily tasks like grocery shopping. They may even have to cease certain activities altogether; for example, many seniors need to stop driving for their safety and the safety of others. Accepting help means they have to accept some loss of freedom and spontaneity.
  5. They’re worried about how they will pay for their healthcare. Not everyone qualifies for programs like Medicaid, and sometimes even senior care programs they do qualify for will not pay for all costs associated with eldercare services, which can be expensive.

Dealing with an older parent who refuses help can be incredibly frustrating. It’s important for adult children to remember that no matter how frustrated they are, their parents are probably just as distressed.

All in all, there are plenty of reasons why someone might refuse help in their old age, and understanding what is causing their distress is key to getting them to eventually accept help. For example, if an elderly parent is concerned about finances, exploring financial aid options together may help ease their worries. In turn, this may make them more receptive to the idea of hiring professional help, since they have assurance that they can afford to do so.

How to Get Aging Parents to Accept Help

A young woman hugs her elderly mother
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

There are plenty of ways to ease aging parents into the idea of accepting help, including the following.

Make an Assessment

Determining what sort of help older relatives need will guide every other decision. Families should ask themselves the following questions of their aging relatives:

Hire Home Help

Caregiving is a full-time job; that’s why many families hire part-time or even full-time help for assisting elderly relatives. Increasingly popular hired eldercare professionals are geriatric care managers. They are a sort of specialized care advisor, often a registered nurse or social worker.

A geriatric care manager’s responsibilities can include:

  • Making doctor’s appointments and arranging transport to and from them
  • Managing communication between family members
  • Giving families advice and direction for how best to care for their aging loved one
  • Helping connect families to other eldercare resources

Meet Them with Kindness

Meeting an aging loved one with kindness can go a long way to diffusing tense situations. They may be belligerent anyways, but not matching their hostility may help prevent tensions from rising.

Understand that the Role Reversal May Be Hard for Them to Accept

Some people are creatures of habit; those people may have a harder time adjusting to new social roles. For example, older parents may have issues accepting help from their adult children because of the role reversal. After all, the parents have spent many years assuming the caregiver roles. Having those roles reversed may require extra adjustment time. In these cases, being patient is the best course of action.

Let Them Make their Own Decisions

At the end of the day, older adults are still adults. So long as they are not putting themselves or others at risk, it’s important to let aging relatives make their own decisions.

Regularly Check In

Regularly checking in on aging relatives is important for two reasons.

  1. Firstly, it gives family members peace of mind that their relative is doing fine. Or, it can alert them to their relative’s changing needs.
  2. Secondly, hearing from loved ones can boost the older adult’s mental health, especially if they live alone.

Accept Limitations and Create Boundaries

It’s important for family caregivers to understand that they are human and that there is only so much they can do to help out elderly relatives. Part of accepting limitations and making this process easier is for caregivers to create boundaries.

For example, adult children may let their parents know that they will not pay for every expense, or they may refuse to let their parents move in with them. Establishing firm boundaries early on helps set expectations and reduces the odds of misunderstandings.

Join a Support Group

Support groups are great both for older adults and their caregivers.

  • A support group can help older adults work through their feelings and may ultimately help them accept that they need assistance.
  • Likewise, caregivers may feel relieved hearing stories from a group of people in similar situations, or talking about their own mixed feelings in a judgment-free space.

What’s Next?

Your loved one’s well-being and quality of life should always be your family’s number one priority. When an elderly parent can no longer take care of themselves and the help they need exceeds what home caregivers can provide, it’s time to ask some hard questions. One such question to ask yourself is if they need to move into a long-term care community.

Making the decision to move your relative into a senior living community is hard. Actually finding that community doesn’t have to be, though. Our directory is full of thousands of independent living, assisted living, memory care, and other senior living locations across the country. You can rest assured that you can find your aging relative a welcoming community near you, so they can receive the care they need with the dignity they deserve.