When Elderly Parents Refuse Care: 5 Simple Tips

It seems very clear to you that your mum or dad could do with some help. Each time you visit, you notice that their previously immaculate house now looks unloved. Maybe they’re not showering or changing their clothes as often as they should. Perhaps they don’t seem to be eating properly anymore.

You know there’s help available. But your mum or dad just won’t accept it.

It’s easy to get frustrated in these conversations, especially when you’re anxious about their wellbeing.

Here are 5 ways to keep your calm and make progress.

1. Listen to their reasons

Before you rush in with your solution, take time to listen. You need to understand the situation from your mum or dad’s perspective.

Try to listen to the feelings beneath the words. Perhaps your parent was taught to be self-reliant from an early age and finds it hard to accept help. Perhaps they know they need help but think you should be the one who provides it.

You’re listening to learn. Active listening involves:

  • Giving your parent your full attention
  • Communicating support through your body language (nod or smile)
  • Asking open-ended questions that help you learn more about their life, experiences and values
  • Not judging.

Often, you’ll hear fear. Your mum or dad may know other people who’ve had bad experiences of care. They may not trust paid carers to look after them.

They may also be afraid of losing independence or of becoming old and frail. Maybe they fear other people making decisions about them or fear that care will be too expensive.

You’d be surprised how important these talks are. They can be quite intense so don’t push it. You’re giving them space to think through the question of care and to express their feelings.

Sometimes that’s enough for their thinking to start shifting. If not, then leave it for now and return to the topic next time.

2. Explain their options

You can help by doing some research so you can help your parent understand their options.

Research funding options for in-home care. Research care providers who offer the services you think your parent needs. Chat through the options with your mum or dad. Comparing services and costs is one way to actively involve your parent in decision making, addressing one of their fears.

3. Focus on the benefits

If your parent is focusing on the negative aspects of receiving care, remind them of the benefits.

In-home care can help your mum or dad maintain their independence and continue living in their own home for as long as possible. When someone else is taking care of chores, your parent has more energy left for the things that bring them joy.

They may stand to gain some important new relationships too. At Focused Health Care, we spend time matching clients and carers to create a good personality fit. Over time, our clients more often than not come to enjoy spending time with their carers.

4. Start small

Work out the minimum amount of help your parent would accept.

You can use a home care package for many different types of care – for grocery shopping, outings, cleaning, home maintenance, meal prep, or personal care.

Maybe your mum or dad isn’t ready to be showered by a stranger but could be persuaded to have someone come to clean or cook.

Accepting a small amount of help is a big step for some people. Crossing the threshold is hard. But, once your parent is receiving some help, many of their fears ease. They can see it’s not that bad – it’s actually helpful.

5. Try it and review

Suggest that your mum or dad tries care for a couple of months. Sometimes knowing that they have an exit is enough to persuade people to try in-home care.

Make sure the trial period is long enough for your mum or dad to see the benefit of the service. And make sure you honour the fact that this is a trial – set a review date at the outset and mark it on the calendar.

When it’s time to review the service, ask your parent what’s gone well. If they like some things but not others, then consider how the service could be changed or improved.

If they’ve tried it, really don’t like it, and don’t want to continue then you have to respect their decision. But it’s a good opportunity to ask them how they plan to manage and to express your concerns again.

How Can Focused Health Care Help?

At Focused Health Care, we’re used to welcoming first-time clients who are trying out in-home care. We know it’s a big step.

We start by getting to know your mum or dad. We chat to them and learn about their life and their needs. We try to match them with carers who share their interests or their sense of humour.

We tailor our services to your needs and are happy to listen to feedback.

If you’d like to chat about your parent’s needs, please call us on 1300 201 351.

All information is general in nature. Patients should consider their own personal circumstances and seek a second opinion.

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