Caring for Aging Parents and Dealing with Resistance

Caring for Aging Parents and Dealing with Resistance

Your aging parents need help, but they won’t accept it. You’re coming up against resistance and they are not listening to your advice. Dealing with a loved one who doesn’t want help is one of the toughest challenges, but you are not alone. 77% of adult children believe their parents are stubborn about taking their advice or getting help with daily problems according to a study by The New Jersey Institute for Successful Aging. So, how do you help a loved one who doesn’t want help? We dug into what geriatric experts advise on how to best approach the situation.

Caring for Aging Parents

Why are they resisting?

First, we need to address the question of why they are resisting in the first place. If your elderly mom or dad is in need of care, they are likely dealing with some type of loss. Whether that is a physical loss, mental loss, or the loss of independence, accepting help might mean relinquishing privacy and adjusting to new routines. As a result, your loved one might feel frightened and vulnerable. They may be angry he or she needs help, or feel guilty about the idea of becoming a burden to the family. In some cases, memory loss might also make it difficult for your loved one to understand why he or she needs help. Resisting care and digging in their heels are two hallmarks of dementia, so it’s important to determine if it is cognitive impairment. You may need to help them get a “decision-making capacity assessment“.


Assess. Listen. Accept.

Whether or not your loved one is cognitively impaired, it is important to help them feel heard and validated. Start by assessing what kind of help they need. Consulting with their doctor can help them understand their health problems and what declines they should plan for. Once this is determined, talk to your parents about their preferences. Do they have preferences about medical care and their living situation? What are their goals? What trade-offs are they willing to make? Older adults, tend to prioritize independence, while families and Doctors tend to prioritize safety and keeping them alive as long as possible.  At some point, these goals bump into each other and most family conflicts revolve around this dilemma. When faced with the trade-off between safety and autonomy, most elderly adults choose autonomy.

While you might want to control your aging parents for their own good, the reality is you cannot force them to do anything. They are adults with the right to make decisions, even poor ones. Accepting this can help reduce your stress and even improve your relationship with your parents.

Keep in mind that these strategies may or may not be appropriate when dealing with a loved one who has dementia.


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