What to do when your elderly parent refuses care (5 simple ideas)
When your parent is refusing to accept home care, it is easy to feel like you’re the worst person in the world.
You start to wonder if you’re overreacting, or why you just can’t find more hours in the day to look after them yourself.
So what is the solution? If you are noticing warning signs like unpaid bills piling up, missed appointments or an unkempt appearance, then it’s likely your loved one needs some form of regular home care.
To help you have healthy and productive conversations about their care, we have a number of tried-and-tested tips for you. Keeping things positive and heartfelt can be tricky when you are met with refusal, so there are a number of different approaches below to try.
Here are 5 things you can do when an elderly parent or loved one refuses needed care.
1. Listen to the reasons why they are refusing care
There are many reasons why seniors resist accepting home care. Even though this can be frustrating, it is important for the senior to feel as though their opinions are respected.
Common reasons why your parent or relative may be refusing care include:
- Fear of losing independence
- Feeling like a burden
- Concerns about having a ‘stranger’ in their home
If you are in this situation, sit down and ask your parent why they are refusing to accept home help. If you’re not sure how to start the conversation, try this opener: “I notice that every time I bring up the idea of someone coming in to help, you resist it. Why is that?”
Repeat their reasons back to them during the discussion, so they know you’re listening. Without this reassurance, it will be difficult to move forward in a positive way.
Then it’s important to give the senior time to process their situation. Some will take longer than others to accept help, so start these discussions early.
2. Discuss their available home care options
Once you have talked to your loved one about their concerns, make them feel involved in their care by showing them their options.
Reassure them that you have researched all of their options, and found a care provider that suits their needs.
As you are discussing their options, bring up their most pressing concerns and what services or systems your preferred home care provider has in place to address these. This will reassure your loved one that you really have listened to them and have their best interests at heart.
Let’s say your loved one is worried about having a ‘stranger’ in their home. In our case, we organise a meeting before the first day of service, so your parent has a chance to get to know their CAREGiver. This makes them feel far more comfortable when their care begins.
It’s also a good idea to read up in advance how home care works. This will allow you to explain the process clearly, in order to prevent your parent from feeling overwhelmed.
3. Focus on living independently at home
Many seniors refuse care because they see it as a loss of their independence (even if they know deep down that accepting help is in their best interest). But the reality is that home care allows seniors and the elderly to keep living at home for longer.
So focus your discussions on the ways your loved one can continue to live independently and safely in their own home. Perhaps they’re a bit isolated if they can no longer drive, so in that instance you can talk about the perks of transport to social events, appointments and fitness classes.
Rather than dwelling on the negatives of their situation, this tactic allows you to focus on how their lifestyle will be supported by accepting home help.
4. Gently explain your reasons for seeking home help
Again, this tactic is about drawing attention to the solution, rather than the problem. Seniors will feel downtrodden and defensive when discussions continually focus on the things they can no longer do. (E.g. “You’re not steady enough on your feet to keep hanging out the laundry alone.”)
Instead, have an honest conversation about how home care will make life easier for you, as well as your loved one. It could be the case that your parent simply doesn’t realise they’re causing you stress.
Try the following conversation starter: “I would feel so much better if I knew that you had more help; someone to help with the food shopping and be here when I can’t…”
If they fully understand the situation from your point of view, they may be more willing to entertain the idea of change.
5. Enlist help from people who your parent trusts
Sometimes it takes a few nudges to come around to an idea.
If you are having trouble convincing a senior that they need a little help at home, try approaching people who can continue the conversation for you. This could be a family member, friend or trusted healthcare professional.
Remember that seniors want to be treated like adults, and that means it can be hard for them to accept advice from their children, especially if they feel vulnerable when discussing their care needs. In this situation, they may prefer to chat with a friend, GP or aged care professional.
Most home care organisations can arrange a free consultation to meet with a senior to discuss their situation and make recommendations.
For more information, download our Guide for When Seniors Say “No!”
Get even more insights on how to support your ageing parents in this free guide. Highlights include:
- How to work out if you’re overreacting (page 4)
- 10 signs your parent or relative needs help (page 5)
- What to do once a senior agrees to help (page 11)
Get your copy now and learn how to effectively raise the topic of home care with your loved one.