person with limited mobility in wheelchair

What to do if a Parent Refuses Care?

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One of the biggest stumbling blocks when an elderly parent stubbornly refuses any form of care is helping them overcome their fear; fear of losing their independence, fear of being physically dependent on someone else and just an overall fear of change.

You may have noticed that your parent has gradually been able to do less or struggles with simple task and there is no doubt that ageing can take its toll on daily living. Tasks that we often take for granted such as shopping, cleaning, laundry and pet care as well as performing basic needs such as bathing can all be affected.

An impossible problem?

You may point out your concerns to your parent only to be rebuffed. Denial is a natural defence and you may hear “I’m fine” or “I don’t need any help” even when they obviously do. You may suggest domiciliary care as a first simple step, with regular visits to help with housework, food preparation etc. But if your loved one stands firm – can you actually make them come to a decision that will benefit them and alleviate your concerns?

The hardest parents to deal with are those who have been fiercely independent all their lives. They may have the attitude that they’re still your mother/father and they know what’s best for them (until they don’t) and you are left with the unenviable task of pointing it out.

Positive messaging

There are ways you can positively manipulate the situation to achieve the best results for you and them. The key is in your approach.

1.     Choosing a good time

We all have times of the day when we are most receptive to discussion. Some people are morning people and some cannot deal with heavy topics until evening falls. Working with your parent’s mood and energy level is the best way to approach a difficult conversation.

2.     Set the scene

The most productive discussions often take place outside “home ground” so it could be that you choose to take your parent out for a meal and tactfully bring up the topic.

3.     Make it about you and them

It is important to begin a difficult conversation by empathising with their feelings – that you understand how stressful for anyone to recognise they need help. You can take some of the emphasis off them by acknowledging your own feelings too – that you are concerned for their safety and wellbeing and you would like them to discuss or at least think about solutions that would benefit both of you

4.     Reassure them

If your parent is mentally competent you cannot force care upon them so reassure them that this is not what you intend to do.


And finally; don’t give up. Elderly people usually need a longer period of time to fully take new ideas on board. All you can do is point out their options and in time – you may be surprised when they suddenly reach a decision regarding care and claim it was their own all along.


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