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What Do You Do When an Elderly Parent Refuses Needed Care?

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A senior sitting on a couch with a blanket holding their hand up, refusing the medication and glass of water someone got for them to take

If you’re supporting an aging parent, you may be facing some challenging conversations about their care needs. It can be frustrating when your loved ones skip doctor’s appointments, take on too many daily tasks or chores, and struggle with day-to-day living when help is readily available. 

Your parent may resist needed care, and it’s vital to know that this is a common scenario –you are not alone! Growing older doesn’t have to be a straining and difficult situation for you and your parents.

At The Villages at River Club, we understand older adults need independence, and respect their children’s concerns about well-being and safety. Here are a few things to consider when an older parent is resistant to the idea of support services or assisted living: 

Identify the Root Cause

Growing older is scary and complex, and your parent’s identity may be strongly tied to their independence and ability to be self-sufficient people.  The idea of accepting care can bring forward overwhelming emotions, including self-doubt, feelings of depression, and anxiety. 

Ask yourself if: 

  • They are worried about being less independent
  • They are feeling anxious or depressed
  • You are being respectful of their feelings and fears

Acknowledging your parent’s feelings can help restore lost communication, allowing you to incorporate positive changes into their current situation. 

We’re All Adults Here 

Growing older is the ultimate role-reversal, and suddenly you’re the one doing all the nagging. Give your parent (and yourself!) a break by choosing which tasks or challenges are most important, and focus on those. Remember, matters involving safety should be most important.

You may have the best intentions, but ultimately, your aging parent is in charge of their own life. They are capable of making their own decisions – even if you’re not convinced it’s the right one. Acceptance may help relieve your anxiety and re-open the lines of communication between you and your loved one.

When you acknowledge your parent’s autonomy and treat them with respect, it may become easier to assist, and create less resistance towards accepting additional care. 

Provide Options

Elderly parents often refuse needed care because they want freedom, choices, and options. Offering various options will help them realize their opinions matter, and they’ll still maintain much of their independence. Let them: 

  • Choose the date and time of appointments
  • Select their own hobbies and activities
  • Decide on a comfortable level of care
  • Find a caregiver who feels like a companion
A female courier delivering a brown paper bag of groceries to a senior woman in her doorway

Baby Steps

Avoid sudden, dramatic lifestyle changes! Respect your parent’s independence by slowly introducing a certain number of supports. If your parents resist accepting help, it’s crucial to start with smaller, less-intrusive options. You could suggest: 

  • Housekeeping 1-2 days a week
  • A family member or friend handles errands once a week
  • An accountant to manage bills and bank accounts
  • A grocery delivery service 
  • A neighbor help with lawn and yard maintenance

Smaller steps can help ease your parent’s adjustment, and potentially help them become more open to the idea of accepting needed care.

Communication is Key

Be open with your elderly parent – Let them know how their refusal of help affects you. Keep the lines of communication open, and let them know what makes you feel anxious and concerned. 

Remember that communication works in either direction; you need to listen to your parents as well, respect their independence, and allow them to make their own decisions. 

Keep an open heart when having conversations, and make sure everyone feels comfortable sharing their feelings. Communication can be difficult when no one wants to listen to each other.

Find a Safe Space to Vent

It’s easy to become frustrated and emotional when your aging parent refuses needed care. It’s imperative to find a safe place to vent your frustrations – as long as it’s not to them, especially if you’re the primary caregiver. 

Instead, find someone to confide in, who can help you develop a strategy for your loved one’s future, like: 

You care deeply about your elderly parents; that’s why you become overwhelmed with anxiety and fear when they refuse your assistance. Do not forget to take care of yourself; find an outlet, hobby, or activity to help release some of these frustrations. 

Get Your Team Together

You don’t have to do this alone. If you’re at odds with your loved one, and they are still refusing help, it may be time to expand the roster and let a few professionals and experts weigh in on the situation. 

Consider contacting: 

It may be helpful to find a group of seniors in a similar stage of life to help guide and encourage your parent towards accepting care or considering an independent living facility

Your assembled team can help convince your parent that they are supported, respected, and that their well-being is essential to the community.

It’s Their Life

It’s stressful for everyone when an aging parent ignores advice and refuses needed care. But remember, they should remain in control of their own lives and not be forced to accept help –even when it’s provided with the best of intentions. 

Be empathetic, and provide your parents with gentle reminders that their independence is not at risk; this should help alleviate the fear of losing freedom and autonomy. 

If you’re the caregiver of an aging parent and feel overwhelmed, The Villages at River Club can provide comfort and advice. There are supports available; you don’t have to handle this alone. Contact us for more information. We’re here to help!

Written by Lisa Klasen

“It gives me pleasure to help our residents live a life of independence, love, and joy here in our community.”

Lisa has lived in Clarksville for over 10 years and is originally from the Nashville area. She went to college at Central Michigan University, where she graduated with a liberal arts degree (psychology major).

Lisa has an eclectic work background and started her career in the human resources/training/development arena for several service-oriented companies such as Hyatt Hotels and The Forum Group (Senior Living Communities). Later in her career, she switched to real estate sales for local custom home builders for about 15 years in Indiana and Tennessee. Recently, Lisa has worked as a sales and marketing director for a local independent living community, a skilled nursing facility, and an assisted living/memory care facility.

She lives with her 4 “boys”: 2 dogs and 2 cats. She still holds her real estate license and also does professional photography during her time away from The Villages. She hopes to use her photography skills to market our beautiful building and wonderful family of residents and staff here. She looks forward to getting to know everyone!

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