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 Award-winning business author and broadcaster

Leadership trainer and coach

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  • Writer's pictureAudrey Tang

GUEST POST: Andrea Gibbs - What to do when elderly parents refuse help

Updated: Jul 25, 2022

Dignity and choice is so important, and I'm delighted to publish another post from guest expert Andrea Gibbs.

Many people struggle with the idea of leaving their elderly parents behind. Most of us want nothing more than to care for and be there for our parents when they need it most, but if your elderly parents refuse help from you or others, you might be left wondering what to do. With the correct information, you can take steps to protect your parent's safety and give them the care they deserve.

Why Your Elderly Parents Refuse Help

Before explaining how to help your elderly parents if they refuse help from you, it is first essential to understand why they might be refusing help. There are many valid reasons why they might not want to accept the help of anyone, especially you. Some of these reasons include:

  • The elderly might be afraid they will be a burden on you and need to prove they can do things independently.

  • The elderly might fear losing control of some aspects of their life if they accept any help. For example, your elderly parent might believe that if he accepted any care, you or others would take control of what he wanted to do in life.

  • They may have low self-esteem because they assume that no one will treat them well after leaving the hospital or nursing home.

  • Your elderly parents may have experienced abuse at the hands of others and therefore don't trust anyone to help them.

  • They may feel like they should be helping you instead of asking for it from you.

  • They may be desperate to prove they can still take care of themselves, even when they cannot do so physically.

With this information, you can better understand how to care for your elderly parents if they refuse your help.

What to Do:

If the fears mentioned above are in play and your elderly parents refuse help from you, there are several ways to address them. Remember that even if your parents don't want you or anyone else helping them, it does not mean that they are not capable of learning small tasks on their own. They are either afraid to accept help or feel they don't need it. Here's what you can do:

1. Approach with love.

If your elderly parents refuse help because they're afraid you'll see them as a burden on you, the best thing to do is approach them with love. Make sure they know without a shadow of a doubt that you are accepting of their needs, wants, and desires. It's important not to impose your will on them or try to convince them otherwise; just let them know you love and accept them for who they are. The step to follow is quite simple, but one that often gets overlooked.

  • Approach with complete understanding- Your elderly parents may have had a challenging life and maybe very mistrustful of you. You need to understand this and put in extra effort to gain their trust. If you don't understand why your elderly parents are refusing help from you, it will be tough to move forward.

  • Approach with love and acceptance- The first step is essential for gaining trust and showing your elderly parents that you are capable of helping them even if they refuse help at first. Approach them with pure love and acceptance for who they are. If you don't even know why they refuse help from you, it's hard to prove that you genuinely can or want to care for them. If your elderly parents allow you to do this, it will show your willingness to help them.

2. Work with their fears.

Even if your elderly parent is not ready to accept help from others, they may realize that accepting your help will be a better alternative. Even if they say they don't want help from you, talk to them about their fears. Find out what it is that keeps them from accepting help from others. If you can address their concerns and prove that their fears are unfounded, it will be easier for them to accept help from you.

  • Keep lines of communication open- If your elderly parent is refusing help out of fear that they will lose control over their life. The best way to help them is to keep lines of communication open with them in a non-threatening manner.

  • Help with daily tasks- If that doesn't work, try helping with the day-to-day tasks they have been afraid of losing control over. This also makes it easier for your elderly parent to accept help from others.

  • Prove they can trust you- If they fear being mistreated by others or abused, show them you can provide them with the care they deserve and let them know that you are there for them.

3. Offer a change.

Your elderly parents may be very fearful of the unknown and therefore very wary of any ideas, proposed changes, or changes in behavior they can't control. This is especially true for older adults who have been in nursing homes and treated poorly.

  • Involve them in decision making- Offer your elderly parents a change or new idea, but first, allow them to let you know what they think of it. Then you can go from there based on their response to the change or idea. If they are not willing to accept a change or idea, that doesn't mean there's no way around it. It just means that they are not ready for that change.

  • Provide stability- If your elderly parents refuse help from you because they don't want to lose control over their lives, then the best way to help them is to provide them with a sense of stability. This means staying close by but not hovering. It means setting up a schedule for when you're around and not.

  • Keep the same rules- If your elderly parents refuse help from you because they're afraid of being interrupted in their daily lives, then keep the same schedule for when you're around and when you're not. Don't change the schedule or interrupt them unless necessary.

  • Keep things simple- If your elderly parents refuse help because they don't want to lose control over their activities, keep things simple.

4. Consider professional assistance.

If your elderly parents are refusing help from you or anyone else, consider involving a professional to guide you on how to best care for them. A social worker, personal care assistant, therapist, or mental health counselor may be able to help you, and your elderly parent navigates any problems and fears they are having. Professional help should be used as a last resort and only after understanding the problem at hand and trying different things first.

If you take these steps and show your elderly parents that you can help with the daily tasks they are afraid of losing control over, they will be more willing to accept your help.

While it may be difficult for an elderly individual to accept help from family members, there are ways in which families can assist. Family members can follow the suggestions offered above in order to provide a safe environment for the elderly individual. This will ensure that the elder is not placed in a situation where losing control and not being able to take care of themselves will be a problem.

About the author:

Andrea Gibbs is a writer and content manager for SpringHive Web Agency. She has expertise in writing, designing, developing and promoting online content. She is also a blogger and contributor at Wellness Home Care. She believes that sharing knowledge and information is a fundamental duty that every blogger and content manager like her should undertake to help in solving problems. She takes pride in every blog post that she writes, so she always makes sure to put quality first, even at the expense of time.

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