Ways to Help the Elderly Parent Who Keeps Refusing Help or Care
You may spend hours worrying about your aging Mom. Perhaps you’ve already had to rush in and deal with a crisis or two. When you know your elderly parent could benefit from help, it’s heart-wrenching when she refuses.
A study done at Oregon State University provides insight into why elders often resist our best efforts. Essentially, the way we’re offering assistance makes our aging parents feel “old”. We equate growing old with negative traits like dependence, confusion and feebleness. No one wants to feel this way.
And, as long as she’s competent to do so, Mom or Dad may make decisions that frustrate you. However, you can clearly communicate your concerns and set your own boundaries. Also, keeping in mind these research findings and our experiences, you can try a different approach. Here are the top approaches we’ve found to be successful when attempting to help a reluctant aging parent.
Successful Strategies When an Aging Parent Resists Your Help:
1. Build a planning and support team.
Your parent may not be ready to accept senior home care or move to Assisted Living. But, you can help them to be as prepared as possible. This also means you’ll be better off if a crisis occurs.
Organize records and paperwork, and make sure it’s easily accessible. Make sure Mom/Dad has visited key planning professionals (estate planning/elder law attorney, financial advisor, CPA, care manager). They can help ensure she has updated documents and plans in place. Often, they can be quite helpful in understanding the bigger picture. Their input may get your parent thinking about her choices and ways she might be limiting them. And, they can also be allies in suggesting help. An outside party sometimes has better success. Remember, you are the daughter or son, no matter how old you are.
A care management consultation, or assessment, would be ideal. Let your parent know it is similar to meeting with other planning professionals. It is a way for you both to get a baseline picture and to understand what help may be available. (We can help with how to approach the idea and referrals too.)
2. Create an agreement and outline boundaries.
Hold a family meeting. It will be helpful to have a professional involved to guide the process. Think of it as a formalized way to document your concerns, Mom’s concerns, and how your family will determine when and what help is needed. Everyone doesn’t have to agree to everything, but you will be able to come to some understandings. This is also a time to set clear boundaries, so that Mom’s decisions don’t put you into constant crisis mode.
This working agreement should set some guidelines. The outcome might be that Mom agrees to in-home help a couple days/week so that you and your siblings will be comfortable with her continuing to live at home.
For example, one family we worked with held a meeting with Dad, the siblings and the care manager. Dad had continually refused any help. The siblings had narrowed down five changes they felt were essential for him to be safe at home. In the end, Dad agreed to three. And, they set a check-in meeting for one month. Dad also agreed that he would consider other options if he had any crises. They laid out guidelines and a process should this occur.
*This meeting shouldn’t be the first time you bring up these discussions. We encourage everyone to open a dialogue early. This always makes the conversations easier.
3. Help make the home aging-in-place friendly.
You can prevent a lot of problems by making the home environment safer for aging. If your Mom won’t accept help, make it easier for her to help herself. Run through a falls prevention checklist. Or, better yet, get a professional home safety assessment.
Make things more accessible. Simply rearranging can go a long way to improve Mom’s functioning. And, it can reduce the chances of injury.
4. Offer help that won’t be seen as “care”.
People of all ages use transportation services (who hasn’t used Lyft or Uber?), housekeeping and home maintenance services. These types of assistance may feel less like admitting you’re old and need help.
Listen to your parents and pick up on cues about areas they might want assistance. Before jumping in with suggestions, observe how they’re doing and what they’re having trouble with. Start small. Check out “Five (Not Just Senior) Services to Make Life Better as You Age” for ideas.
To learn more successful strategies and get a copy of a room-by-room home safety checklist, read our full article.