Strategies When Parents Refuse Help

If you are the adult child of an aging parent, you may feel that your intergenerational roles have switched. On some level, you have become the caretaker and protector that your parents once were when you were younger.

The reality is this role transition can be a significant challenge for aging parents. They don’t want to be seen as in need of caretaking and protection by their child or children. As a consequence, situations frequently arise in which aging parents refuse help (at least initially) from their adult child or children. 

There are some strategies you will want to consider if you find yourself in the position of recognizing your parents are in need of some assistance and yet they are refusing your help. These tactics include:

  • Have proactive conversations with your parents
  • Use open-ended questions with your parents
  • Validate your parents’ feelings
  • Offer parents options
  • Recruit assistance from outsiders
  • Prioritize issues or problems
  • Use indirect approaches to your parents
  • Take it slow
  • Understand there can be limitations

Have Proactive Conversations

If you find yourself only now beginning to detect that your parent or parents may need help, you may still be at a juncture in time at which a proactive conversation can be useful. If you are not in the midst of what is something close to a crisis situation regarding your parent needing additional assistance, you can have far more relaxed conversations about what your mother or father would like to see or do in the future when they may be in need of more significant assistance. Again, you may be beyond this juncture already – but if not, this definitely is a key tactic to employ. 

Use Open-Ended Questions With Your Parents

When it comes to trying to ascertain what type of assistance your parent may need and to encourage your mother or father is accept some level of help, it is suggested that you ask open-ended questions. You should avoid yes or no questions and use queries that allow a parent the opportunity to think a bit more about their response and to explain how they feel to you. 

Validate Your Parents’ Feelings

If you are dealing with parents unwilling to accept assistance of some type or another, you cannot shut them down and proclaim they are wrong for not doing so. Rather, you need to make it a point to validate how they feel. You should attempt to better put yourself in their shoes and try to understand why they feel the way they do in regard to accepting assistance for you or someone else. 

Offer Parents Options

Another tactic you should consider employing is to offer your parents options when it comes to help and assistance. You don’t want to state that a parent needs to enter assisted living – end of story. Rather, you should suggest that your parent might want to consider in-home assistance, an assisted living program, or some other reasonable alternative that matches with a parent’s needs. 

Recruit Assistance From Others

Oftentimes, aging parents can be pretty obstinate when it comes to the idea of accepting advice let alone assistance from one of their adult children. For this reason, when you are faced with parents refusing assistance, consider engaging the involvement of others in the discussion. You can also involve other types of providers who may be able to provide your parents the assistance that is needed.

Prioritize Issues or Problems

Parents may have multiple issues or problems that need addressing at any particular point in time. The thing is not all issues or problems are of equal weight or concern. 

It’s largely up to you to prioritize which issues or problems need attention most urgently. You will also want to get feedback from your parents regarding which matters they think deserve attention more immediately.

Use Indirect Approaches to Your Parents

Using an indirect approach doesn’t mean engaging your mother or father in a passive-aggressive manner. In other words, don’t use a tactic like “If you don’t agree to go into assisted living, I will have a hard time talking to you.” In addition to being counterproductive, this is cruel.

You can take a positive albeit not direct approach. For example, you can lay out the benefits of assisted living without a caveat that you think your parent needs to move.

Take It Slow

At the start of this article, we discussed taking a proactive approach to communicating with your parent about needing assistance. Even when that is not possible, unless there is an immediate emergency, you can still take time to bring your parent around to the idea of accepting assistance in some appropriate way.

Understand Limitations

Finally, keep in mind that you may not be able to convince your parent of the need to accept some type of assistance at this time. You need to understand that there are limitations to what you can do. You need to accept the fact that limitations exist. You cannot place unnecessary blame on yourself in this regard.