When Your Elderly Parent Refuses Help

Home Care in Bay Shore: Does your loved one need help at home but refuses to accept it?  Are you providing the care yourself and managing a job, your own family, and other obligations?  It may be time for an intervention.

Many older adults come from a generation that took care of themselves and their families without asking for help.  They overcame the Great Depression, wars, and other struggles of their time by working hard and doing what they could to make ends meet.  These experiences shaped their perspectives and the belief that accepting help means admitting one’s own weakness.  However, often times when they do get the help they need they become even more independent and empowered to manage their needs and experience less of their needs managing them.  This also allows the time spent with family to be focused on enjoyable things rather than taking care of business, such as chores, errands, or appointments.

In many instances, an intervention may be needed if the person who is refusing help has dementia or is at risk for injuring him/herself or others.  Families often will yield to their loved one’s decision to go it alone in order to allow that person to maintain independence while not realizing that this person has lost the ability to use good judgment.  By allowing a person with dementia to be in the driver’s seat, the family may end up on a path that does not work for anyone involved in the situation.  It also puts the person with dementia at risk for safety issues and could lead to bigger problems down the road.

The Intervention

Sometimes an intervention is needed in order to help your loved one understand that help is a necessity and not an option.  Below are some strategies that may work for you.

  1. Create a family meeting. Gather all your closest relatives and friends together to have a meeting with your loved one.  Explain to your family members and/or friends that the goal of the meeting is to get mom and/or dad to accept help in order to thrive and manage his or her activities of daily living.

Be prepared with examples of why your loved one needs this help.  Did he or she have a car accident because of declining memory?  Has he or she been living in unsafe or unsanitary conditions?

Offer options.  For example, you can tell your loved one that he or she can either have a home care aide to assist at home or move to an assisted living facility.

Explain how your loved one’s situation has affected you and that getting assistance would help both your loved one and those around her that care about her.

  1. If Not For You, Do It For Me. Sometime an older parent will refuse to have assistance for himself but will accept a caregiver if it’s going to help his loved one.  For instance, if you are the primary caregiver who does all the shopping, cleaning, personal assistance, and have your own job and family to manage, you could present a caregiver as a way to help ease the burden off of your shoulders.  This also allows you to have a backup caregiver in the event that something happens to you and you are unable to provide the care yourself.
  2. Offer The Change As a Trial Basis. Many in-home care services and facilities will offer trial periods.  If your loved one won’t agree to a permanent change perhaps he or she will do something on a short-term basis to give it a try.


Reassure your loved one that you love him or her and that no matter what happens you will always do what’s in his or her best interest.  That means keeping him or her safe, overseeing his or her well-being, and ensuring he or she maintains quality of life.


Jennifer Benjamin
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