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Last Updated on September 4, 2023

You and other family members may have some concerns about coping with aging parents. It’s possible that your older parent(s) seemed to be in full control of their physical and mental faculties at this time last year. However, you may have noticed Mom and Dad “slipping” as of late, and trying to have a conversation about it may bring about your elderly parents refusing help or, even worse—an ugly argument. 

Worrying about your elderly parents is natural, and you may feel lost as to what to do. However, you may not be able to take care of your parent(s) alone, and any refusal of outside assistance may put you and your parents at an impasse. Read on to learn more about what you can do when your elderly parent refuses help, how to approach the situation, and what outside help may be the best fit for care options for your elderly parents.

When Elderly Parents Refuse Help: Assessing the Situation 

Let’s face it—aging can be scary. Your elderly parents refusing help and an angry reaction may be because of fear. If your elderly parent refuses help, you may want to take a moment before talking to them again to evaluate the situation simply. Supporting an elderly parent who struggles with hip mobility is quite different than a dementia patient who refuses to go to a nursing home, for example. How much help is needed to care for your parents? If you feel like you’re dealing with stubborn elderly parents, bringing specific concerns to them may soften the approach. 

Your parents may want to age in place and may believe your “interference” means a nursing home. While this may be true for adults who cannot take care of themselves, your parents may just need a little assistance in daily life. Try to sit down and have a real discussion about specifics and not generalities. Also, involve your parents in any decision-making. It’s important to recognize what they value and what’s important to them to provide them with the best continuum of care. 

Be Gentle, Yet Honest 

Your parents may be unable to see the same potential problems that you can see clearly, so it’s best to be as honest as possible but frame it carefully. Everyone wants their independence, and elderly parents may refuse help if they feel their independence is threatened. You don’t want an “intervention” meeting but an honest conversation providing solutions. 

What are the actual options? Will you or other family members care for your parents when they are old? Do your parents need light help around the house? Do they need help with dressing and with basic life skills? Are they experiencing anxiety or depression? For example, what do you do when the elderly refuse to get out of bed? For those with a cognitive decline, anxiety and depression, or serious physical problems, alternatives to home care may have to be presented as an option. Another option is to redo the home with mobility and safety features so that your parents can be comfortable aging in place. 

How to Talk to Your Parents

If your first (and even second) conversation didn’t go so well, there are some things to keep in mind when your elderly parents refuse help, including:

  • Expect to have more than one conversation about the topic. If you’re worried about care for your parents, remember they are reluctant, so it may take a few discussions until you can convince them you’re expressing concern out of love and caring.
  • Speak out of love and caring. Try not to come from a place of ultimatums. Remember, in the end, it’s their decision—but do educate them on some safety concerns. If you must bring in experts to support your position, do so. It may carry more weight. 
  • Expect a poor reaction during the first conversation. Your parents may be angry at the thought of modifications in their home, home care, or any help. Don’t take it personally, and continue to come from a place of love and caring. Image of a man holding out his arms on a sign to signal “Stop” for an article about what to do when elderly parents refuse help.

Safety Modifications and Mobility Aids

If your parents want to age in place and don’t want any special “help,” perhaps they will be open to making their home safer. When elderly parents refuse help, it may be because they want no outside interference—but may be open to amenities that make their life easier and more comfortable. Depending on your parents’ unique situation, you may want to suggest certain things, such as a stairlift, lift recliner, or walker. For example, if your parents’ main problem is tackling the staircase, a stairlift can be a simple solution to a big safety issue. If they have trouble rising from a chair, a lift recliner can help immeasurably. Some other things you may suggest to elderly parents refusing help include:

  • Non-slip flooring (particularly in the bathroom and kitchen)
  • Door widening 
  • Wheelchair ramps and accessibility (if warranted)
  • Easier-to-use door handles and faucets
  • Lower countertops and cabinets
  • Smart technology (such as Google Home or Amazon’s Alexa)
  • Raised toilet
  • Grab bars in the bathroom and shower
  • More, brighter lighting 

As you can see, many of these modifications are not intrusive and can make the home more comfortable for your aging parents.

So, what if your elderly parents still refuse help, even if it’s just in the way of home modifications? Remember that the decision is ultimately theirs when you’re trying to care for parents in their old age. Continuing to push the issue may cause a rift between you and your parents, which you don’t want. This is why it’s important to return to step one and reassess the situation. A dire situation may prompt you to seek legal action but think carefully before you go this route. Instead, continue offering help and support as you normally would, but ultimately, respecting their decision is best. 

For more information on what to do when an elderly parent refuses help or other mobility products that can be life-changing, such as stairlifts and wheelchair ramps, contact Williams Lift Co. today. We want both caregivers and their loved ones to be able to live their best lives possible.