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Helping the Parent Who Refuses Help

Often children try to talk to their parents about getting help at home and they refuse to accept such help.

"Why won't they listen to us?" is a common refrain used by adult children when referring to their aging parents.

To get a better understanding, put yourself in your parent’s place and take a moment to consider what they may be feeling:

  • Pride, fear of change and unwillingness to accept that they are aging
  • Wanting their children to continue to see them as strong and able
  • Seeing help as a sign of losing some independence
  • Confusing help in the home with “babysitting”
  • Viewing outside help in the home is an invasion of privacy
  • Worrying about money and thinking that help in the home will be expensive

When both parents are living together, using the approach that in-home help is good for the other spouse often helps. Joining forces with the more independent parent by having them believe they are helping their partner can help to get them both to accept the help they require.

Start the conversation gradually.  Gently suggest that they could use a little help with the housekeeping activities (as opposed to “hands on care.)  Frequently this is less threatening to their independence and serves as a way to "get the caregiver in the door". Point out that help (particularly help that drives) could allow them to do activities they used to enjoy but cannot do anymore thereby increasing, not decreasing their independence. Involve your parents in the choice of who is hired and work with them to determine the “job description”. Your parents might accept help they would not have otherwise agreed. The ultimate goal is for them to see the value in having assistance, develop a trusting relationship and become more open to the idea of allowing other types of assistance as needed.

Many parents place concern for their children’s well being before their own. As I mentioned in the post on care giving, focusing the attention on you as the caregiver needing the help and not on their need for assistance often works.

Point out that having a housekeeper, for example, would reduce your worry about managing their household chores such as cleaning, shopping, meals, and laundry. On the other hand, if more direct care was needed and an aide come in to assist your parent with activities of daily living such as bathing and personal care, you would have more time to manage such household responsibilities. You would also worry less if you needed to be away.  

We cannot prevent our parents from making unreasonable and irrational decisions. When our parents resist our help and refuse all suggestions, we can't force them unless they truly pose a danger to themselves. Hopefully you will not reach that point, but if you do, medical and legal intervention may be required.

Once upon a time, our parents taught us to look out for their own safety and well-being and overcome their fears and embrace change.  It is our turn to teach them the same.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Heron January 25, 2012 at 08:55 PM
I understand what you're saying about parents who refuse help. For me, the biggest issue has been getting my parents, who are in their 80s, to stop driving. My siblings and I have talked to them about this many times. Frankly, their driving is scary and a danger to others on the road. I wish there would be more laws enacted about mandatory testing for drivers over 80. I have found that my parents just will not listen when it comes to this issue.
Susan Yubas January 26, 2012 at 12:42 AM
Giving up driving is a major issue as many seniors view it as acknowledgement that they are feeling the effects of aging and the first step to total loss of independence. However, there are steps you can take to help them be safe and mobile, and I will be discuss them in my next blog post. Stay tuned...
Heron January 26, 2012 at 03:18 PM
I am looking forward to that. This is a huge issue for many people I've spoken to.

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