What to Do When Your Loved One Refuses Assistance

You know that your aging loved one needs some support at home. Maybe you’ve noticed they struggle with personal care tasks or can’t keep up with basic housekeeping. Or, perhaps you’ve noticed they aren’t eating well or are struggling with maintaining connections with friends or neighbors. In any case, you know that a little extra assistance will go a long way in helping them feel more energetic, confident, and healthy.

But what happens when you know that in-home assistance is the answer, but they aren’t so sure? It’s common for older adults to refuse support from family members or outside agencies; they do so for a variety of reasons. What can you do to help them open their minds to the benefits of a few helping hands? 

Determine the Reason for Refusal

Before you can understand how to approach your aging loved one about inviting some in-home help into their routine, it’s important to understand why they are resisting it in the first place. While you might say it’s because they are stubborn or proud, don’t be too fast to make those assumptions. Instead, try to determine the “why” behind their refusal.

Older adults can be resistant to additional support for a variety of reasons:

  • Worries about becoming a burden to their family or others
  • Financial stress or concerns
  • Feeling embarrassed about how much help they might need, the state of their home, or other reasons
  • Shame for their medical conditions or challenges
  • Safety concerns about being in their home with a stranger they do not know or trust

Older adults often rely on their own experiences when refusing help. For example, did your mom notice her dad’s caregiver was stealing from him? Or did your mom have to t ok ake on a lot of the care for her dad and she doesn’t want to become that type of burden to others?

Take time to listen to what your loved one is saying during their refusal, as well as what they might not be saying. You can also ask them what makes them nervous or anxious about having the extra help to see what they share with you.

Once you narrow down the feelings or reasons why they might be refusing, you can focus on helping them work through that.

Be Ready to Pause the Conversation

Many family members want to have a conversation about extra help once, pushing to resolve the issue by the end of the family chat. Unfortunately, this isn’t always realistic and it can negatively affect relationships between family members. Instead, be ready to pause and restart the conversation many times over weeks or even months.

Stop the conversation when your loved one becomes defensive, angry, and stops listening to your side of things. Tell them you notice that things are getting heated and that you can pause the conversation. Then, choose a more pleasant topic so that everyone leaves the interaction in a better mood. Restart the conversation during your next visit to see what might have changed.

Find a Caregiving Agency with Experience

Often, meeting a representative of a reputable caregiving agency turns the tide with older adults who have a history of refusing support. Look for a home care agency that understands the complexities of refusals (including medical reasons for refusals, such as dementia), and will work with you and your loved one to build trust and a relationship.

For example, a home care agency might send out a representative to meet you and your loved one for coffee and to chat. Some might even offer to let your loved one meet a few caregivers and interview them to determine which is their favorite. There are many ways to begin the relationship-building process long before care begins.

At CaringGivers, we are proud to work closely with clients and their family members to build trust and meaningful relationships. We want to get to know more about your loved one, including their history and preferences, so that we can match them up with a caregiver who will meet their needs and complement their personality. Contact us to get started.

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