7 Steps to Take When Elderly Parents Refuse Help
So, your elderly parents need and refuse help; what do you do? Aging brings a host of changes and challenges. It is common for effortless tasks to become more challenging as your loved one ages. Things like remembering doctor’s appointments, picking up the mail, or taking a shower might not be as easy to remember or complete as they once were. While your loved one might need a caregiver, approaching the topic can give rise to many emotions for you and your loved one!
Here are 7 steps to take when your elderly parents refuse help. Approaching the issue with these in mind will hopefully make the conversation run a little smoother and easier.
Why Won’t You Let Me Help You?
It might be challenging to understand why your loved one is resistant to help. Aging is frightening, and admitting you need help is losing another piece of your independence and youth. In North American culture, our sense of identity and value are often intricately tied to our independence, making the thought of a caregiver an undesirable reminder that aging is an undeniable reality. Our independence brings us a sense of pride, accomplishment, and control. Unfortunately, unlike other cultures, we often view aging as a burden, not a blessing.
Often, when you approach the idea of needing care, this brings rise to feelings of frustration, helplessness, loss, misunderstanding, and fear. In addition, aging is often associated with a loss of value. Those negative emotions amplify when your loved ones feel incapable of caring for themselves.
It might feel that the roles are beginning to reverse and change, leaving your loved ones feeling confused, lost, and unsure of their role in your life.
1. Validate and Reassure
It is vital to approach the elderly in your life with validation and reassurance. Parents and grandparents need to understand that while they are experiencing mental and physical challenges and unpredictable changes associated with aging, it does not change the core of who they are. Aging does not define your worth, value, or identity. Keeping this mindset when you enter into challenging conversations will help you approach topics with empathy and understanding instead of fear and frustration.
2. Speak Their Language
When approaching a difficult conversation, it is imperative to see the situation through their eyes. This perspective helps you incorporate their feelings and fears into the heart of your conversation. Before you approach the topic of hiring a caregiver with your loved one, ask yourself the following questions:
- What can my parent still do well?
- What help do they need?
- How much do they value independence?
- What is their current mental state? I.e., are they suffering from depression, anxiety, confusion, or dementia?
- What are some of their fears?
By identifying answers to these questions, you can identify the specific ways they need help and orchestrate the conversation to focus on what they value and what motivates them. In addition, this keeps the conversation focused on the positives, what your parents can do and what is valuable to them. For example, when discussing a caregiver, phrase the conversation so your parent understands the caregiver is not a restriction but a source of companionship supporting the independent activities they love.
3. Remember, They Are Adults Too
It is natural for you to fall into the role of parent as your elderly loved ones age. However, communication is easier when you treat your parent with respect. A stubborn parent is not a stubborn child; your parents are still accomplished, wise, and autonomous individuals. Treating your parents with respect often results in a more favorable conversation.
Remind your parents of tasks in the same way you would remind your spouse or colleague, not your child.
4. Put the Focus on You
When we aren’t motivated to do something for ourselves, doing something for someone we love will inspire us. If your loved one doesn’t budge on receiving help, then refocus on the conversation on you and other loved ones.
Share your worries, concerns, and fears. Be direct and honest about how not having a caregiver impact you and your physical and mental health. Being honest and open about your feelings helps your parents better understand your perspective and position.
5. Baby Steps
It is important to present your elderly loved ones with options, helping them feel in control of their lives. Providing options also let your parents know their input is valuable and heard. Give options that you’d be happy with either choice made. For example, the areas you notice your loved one desperately needs care would not be an ideal place to present an option to receive none.
When providing options, start with small choices. For example, instead of proposing a full-time in-home caregiver, maybe propose a housekeeper come once a week to help with dishes, vacuuming, and laundry. Starting small enables people to adjust and warm up to the idea of not needing to do everything themselves. No one likes large, sudden, and uncontrollable changes. By implementing small changes, you show your parents that you respect their space, boundaries, and independence.
6. Make Them A Part of Your Future
Helping your loved one feel like an intricate, valuable, and needed part of your life and future can encourage them to receive needed care. Even if your parent struggles with Alzheimer’s or dementia, talking about important upcoming dates, such as graduations, weddings, a new birth, or an anniversary is beneficial. Talking about these events frequently helps share the excitement and gives a sense of purpose and belonging.
7. You Aren’t in Control
Fear is a powerful motivator, and when afraid, we can say and do things we regret. Although you have your parents’ best interest in mind, it is important to remember that they control their own lives and decisions. If your parent continues to refuse help, offer love and support, and they might realize they need help in their own time.
You can enjoy valuable time with your parents by accepting the situation instead of becoming bitter and frustrated. As challenging as accepting that they don’t want help is this acceptance can improve your relationship and reduce stress.
Communication is a huge challenge when supporting your aging loved one. Know that you are not alone in this struggle, and take time to vent to friends, a counselor, or an impartial third party when you need to share your frustrations.
We understand how disheartening it can be when your parents still refuse needed help. However, remember to keep your conversations centered in a place of love, understanding, and respect. Your elderly loved one still has autonomy over their decisions. If you and your parent have reached a place of mutual agreement on in-home care, we would appreciate being a part of supporting your journey. Reach out today for a free courtesy consultation or see how to get started here.