What To Do if Your Aging Parent Refuses Help

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Exhausted new parents rely on their own parents for help. But what happens when Grandma needs help herself? Learn what to do if your aging parent refuses help.

New parents often rely on their own parents for help. Grandparents show up to care for and cuddle the baby long enough to give new moms and dads a rest. When number two or three arrives, moms think they’ve got the routine down, but the exhaustion is still real.

By then, however, grandparents might not be as capable of helping as they used to be. You may notice your mom seems forgetful, isn’t bathing regularly, and her usually pristine home is untidy.

“Don’t worry about me; you’ve got enough on your plate,” she’ll say. While it may be true that taking on caregiving for your parents while raising young children yourself is too much, there are other ways to ensure your elder loved one gets the help they need. 

But what happens when your parents reject your offers of help?

Here’s what to do if your aging parent refuses help (from a mom of 3 with a father in law that has gone through this stage!

Understanding the Reasons for Refusal

One of the most difficult things for adult children to navigate is when their aging parents refuse help. It can be frustrating, confusing, and even hurtful, but it’s important to understand that there are often underlying reasons for this refusal.

Some of the most common reasons why aging parents may refuse help include:

  • Feeling independent: Many aging parents have spent their entire lives taking care of themselves and others, and the idea of needing help can be difficult for them to accept. They may feel that accepting help is a sign of weakness or that they’re no longer capable of taking care of themselves.
  • Not wanting to burden others: Aging parents may feel guilty about needing help, and may not want to be a burden on their children or other loved ones. They may worry that accepting help will put undue stress on those around them.
  • Feeling ashamed: Some aging parents may feel ashamed about needing help, and may be reluctant to admit that they’re struggling. They may worry that others will see them as weak or incompetent.

When approaching the conversation with your aging parent, it’s important to be sensitive and understanding. Here are a few tips to help:

  • Be patient: It can take time for aging parents to come around to the idea of accepting help. Be patient and don’t push too hard.
  • Talk about benefits: Explain how the help you’re offering can improve their quality of life and make things easier for them.
  • Emphasize that you care: Let your aging parent know that you care about them and want to help them, not control them.
  • Be open-minded: Be open to hearing their concerns and respect their wishes, even if you don’t agree with them. And if they refuse help, remember that it might be only temporary.
  • Seek professional help: If your aging parent is struggling with mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety, it’s important to seek professional help. A therapist or counselor can help them work through their feelings and may be able to help them see the benefits of accepting help.
  • Be honest about your own limitations: If you are not able to provide the help they need, be honest about it and offer alternative solutions.

Remember, the goal is to support your aging parent, not control them. Being sensitive and understanding can help pave the way for a more productive conversation and a better relationship in the long run.

The Old Switcheroo

One way to encourage your parents to accept help is to couch it in terms of helping you. Yes, you do have more than enough on your plate. The last thing you need is the stress of worrying about your parents’ well-being, which you will do even if they insist they’re just fine. Tell them it doesn’t matter: this is something you need so you can give your kids the attention they deserve. Do it for me, Ma!

Give Them Some Control

You may have found some sources that could provide help. Ask your parents for their input. Tell them you want to ensure they can keep doing all the things they love without spending time on mundane tasks like laundry and housecleaning. But you need their input to decide how many hours per week would be helpful or which state-licensed home care agency to contact.  

Feeling that accepting help threatens their autonomy and independence is a common reason for aging parents to refuse assistance. But if they have meaningful input in scheduling (what days do they usually do their grocery shopping? When is the gardening class at the rec center?), they might warm up to the idea. They can make a list of chores they’d like to offload, so when help comes, it will seem more like freeing them up to do more important things rather than taking tasks away from them. 

Treat Them Like the Adults They Are

Aging parents may not be able to do everything they used to do on their own, but they’re still adults. Your parent has the right to determine the type of help they’ll accept and whether they’re comfortable with helpers coming into their home.

Home Care Products and Devices

Home care products and devices can be a great way to help aging parents maintain their independence and stay connected to loved ones. These products can range from simple solutions like medication reminders to more advanced technology like GPS tracking devices. Here are some examples of home care products and devices that may be helpful:

  • Medical alert systems: These devices, also known as personal emergency response systems (PERS), allow aging parents to call for help in case of an emergency. They typically come in the form of a wearable button or pendant that can be worn around the neck or wrist. When pressed, it connects to a monitoring center, which can dispatch emergency services if needed. This wireless pendant is a good choice if you’re looking for a medical alert system.
  • GPS tracking devices: These devices can be worn as a watch or pendant, and allow loved ones to track the location of an aging parent in case they wander or get lost. This is an example of a GPs tracker for seniors. Here is a great post on GPS trackers for kids as well if you’re interested.
  • Medication reminders: These can be in the form of a pill box or a smart device that reminds the aging parent when it’s time to take their medication. This is an example of a medication reminder.
  • Smart home devices: Smart home devices such as Amazon Echo like this or Google Home, can be very helpful for aging parents with mobility issues, allowing them to control lights, thermostat, and other household functions with voice commands.
  • Video Calling devices: Devices like Amazon Echo Show like this or Google Nest Hub, can make it easy for aging parents to stay connected with loved ones through video calls.

It’s important to note that these products and devices can vary in price and features, so it’s important to research and compare options before making a purchase.

Other Resources and Services

In addition to home care products and devices, there are also other resources and services that can be helpful for aging parents. Some examples include:

  • In-home care: This can include services such as bathing, dressing, and grooming assistance, as well as help with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as cooking, cleaning, and laundry.
  • Meal delivery: Meal delivery services can provide aging parents with nutritious meals that are tailored to their dietary needs and preferences.
  • Transportation services: Transportation services can provide aging parents with safe and reliable transportation to medical appointments, grocery shopping, and other errands.
  • Home modification services: Home modification services can help make an aging parent’s home safer and more accessible, such as installing grab bars, stairlifts, and wheelchair ramps.
  • Adult daycare centers: Adult daycare centers can provide aging parents with socialization and activities, as well as assistance with ADLs.

To access these resources and services, you can start by contacting your local Area Agency on Aging, which can provide information on programs and services available in your community. You can also ask your aging parent’s healthcare provider for recommendations or search online for providers in your area.

When looking for a provider, it’s important to consider factors such as cost, location, and the type of services offered. It’s also a good idea to read reviews and check for any certifications or accreditations. It’s always a good idea to visit the service providers and ask questions to ensure they meet your aging parent’s needs and preferences.

Bottom Line

You may need to accept that your aging parent isn’t ready to accept help. Express your concerns lovingly and positively, and then step back and let your parent process what you told them. Do what you can to minimize the risk of falls and other in-home dangers, and gently encourage them to talk to you about the help they might be willing to consider.

Eventually, your aging parent may realize that having some support and companionship wouldn’t be bad after all. 

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