Communication Tips When Elderly Parents Refuse HelpMarch 1, 2023
If you have elderly parents, you may have noticed some recent physical, emotional or mental changes. Dad seems more forgetful; Mom has had some scary falls. They both seem somewhat unhappy or depressed, as if they’re also concerned about age- or health-related changes.
You and your siblings worry for their safety, and have tried to talk with your aging parents about assisted living, but your parents shut down that conversation whenever it arises. You’re concerned and wondering what to do when your elderly parents refuse help.
Talk with family members first. Your top priority is ensuring your aging parents are safe and healthy. Gather key family members to talk about what issues you’re all noticing. Doing this first will help you to understand the full situation. You’ll also have a better idea if the help they really need is home care, assisted living or possibly memory care.
This discussion can help you and your family create a strategy for how to approach your aging parents when they reject help. Here are some tips for reframing the conversation on your aging parent’s care needs:
Find the right moment to talk. Too often, adult children wait until after there’s a health crisis to talk with aging parents about things like care. The ideal time to talk about care is when it still feels like a hypothetical future issue: “Mom and Dad, I know you don’t need care now, but what are your wishes if ever you do need it?”
However, you may not have the luxury of hypotheticals. Which means right now is the next-best moment. Don’t blindside them; ask for a face-to-face meeting and let them know you have something important you need to discuss. Meeting at a neutral location, such as a restaurant or church meeting room, can help take some of the emotion out of the conversation.
Come prepared with talking points. Start the conversation by sharing some of your and your family members’ concerns. For example, you’ve noticed that it’s difficult for your parents to keep up with house maintenance or lawn care. They’re uncomfortable driving or have had minor accidents. Maybe they rarely leave the house or socialize. If you’re unsure of what to do when your parents refuse help, identifying exact issues can be a good place to open the conversation.
Explain the advantages of having support. No one wants to give up their independence or relinquish control over their lives. That’s true for your aging parents, too. Your parents may feel like you’re telling them they’re no longer allowed to drive, or that they’re incapable of caring for themselves, or that you’re taking them away from their familiar neighborhood.
Instead, focus on the positives. If you and your family members believe assisted living is the best solution, explain the benefits of this choice. For instance, point out that assisted living gives them every opportunity to live as independently as possible, with added benefits such as organized transportation and home maintenance. Talk with them about the many amenities that an assisted living community may offer. You may even want to go so far as to share a sample activities calendar with them.
Give suggestions, not ultimatums. Especially if it’s your first discussion on the matter, don’t approach the meeting with demands. Approach the conversation gently, and try to frame everything as a suggestion. Ask lots of questions, and listen openly and patiently. Share your concerns with your aging parents, then ask them how they may want to address those issues. You may then suggest some options you see, and talk through the pros and cons of each. Your parents may surprise you and suggest assisted living on their own.
Offer to help create a plan. Even if your elderly parents are receptive to the idea of care, they may be overwhelmed by the steps required to make a move to a senior living community. Let your parents know you are there to help, and you and your family members will work with them to come up with an action plan.
That may include identifying and touring several assisted living communities in your or your parents’ area, and determining what type of community and size of residence will be best. Once you’ve made those decisions, you’ll want to plan what to do with furniture and other items they won’t move with them, along with issues such as what to do with any vehicles they may not need. You should also discuss whether to sell, keep or rent their current home.
Try to take baby steps — and above all, be patient. You now have a better understanding of what to do when your elderly parents refuse help, but here’s what you don’t want to do: point fingers, direct blame, be passive-aggressive, shout or engage in any other counterproductive behavior. This can be a difficult and emotionally charged conversation. Consider breaking it up into a handful of smaller discussions. You might even try solving some of their immediate needs by s helping them with driving, running errands for them or arranging to have their groceries delivered.
Discover the Advantages of Assisted Living at Oaks Senior Living
Oaks Senior Living is proud to provide independent living, assisted living and memory care communities designed to create lifestyles that engage the mind and spirit and enrich every stage of retirement.
To learn how your aging parents or other loved ones can thrive in one of our care communities, contact Oaks Senior Living online or call us at 770-796-5871. We look forward to starting a conversation with you!