When an older loved one is refusing help, it can be extremely frustrating. Emotions are running high, and it seems that everyone, except the ones needing the help, understands the urgency. Many factors can contribute to their needs.

For example; a decline in health due to age, disease diagnosis, recent falls, and death of a caretaker spouse could all be why help is now needed. Do you treat them like children because that is how you feel they are acting? Of course not. What do you do?

Admitting to needing help is extremely difficult for a lot of individuals, no matter their age. Our seniors are a population that refuses help often. We take it as stubborn, or strong-willed. I hear a lot of family members say,” My dad will never accept help from a stranger. He is a very proud man, and worked all his life and supported his family.” I understand that. Everyone understands it but him. That is when the bag of tricks needs to come out. The approach in and of itself makes a big difference in their reaction. Every person and situation is different, however, a lot of the solutions are the same. Dealing with an older parent who stubbornly resists offers of help isn’t easy. “The solution isn’t to make an older person feel like you’re steamrolling them and taking over their affairs. What’s needed instead is respect, empathy, and appreciation of the older person’s autonomy.” http://cnn.com   

Don’t Argue & Pick Your Battles

Easier said than done, however very effective when executed. If mom isn’t eating as much as she used to, and likes to put hot sauce on her eggs, let her. What is the worst that could happen? She is eating. Pick your battles. If Aunt Betty refuses to shower, calmly offer a bath, or bed bath. If she agrees to a bath, she may tell you she is frightened to shower. Don’t automatically force her to get into the shower. When someone is refusing assistance, it’s usually because they don’t KNOW what the assistance will be. They can’t envision a family member or caregiver assisting with finances, doctors appointments, and grocery shopping to name a few.

It can be tough when we see our older loved ones struggling, but they refuse our help. As much as we want to swoop in and make everything better, sometimes we have to respect their independence and let them make their own decisions.  However, there are some things we can do to make things easier for them:

1. Listen to their concerns: Often, older adults are resistant to help because they feel like they’re losing control. Listen to their concerns and try to find ways to address them. Don’t bombard them with questions. Listening usually allows for a lot of answers in itself.

2. Be patient: It can be frustrating when our loved ones won’t accept help, but it’s important to be patient. Keep offering your assistance without being pushy, and eventually, they may come around. If it is a situation where there is a large geographical distance, try speaking to neighbors, doctors, and friends of theirs.

3. Offer options: Sometimes older adults refuse help because they don’t like the specific type of assistance being offered. Try offering different options and see if there’s something they’re more comfortable with. Options are great for cognitively functioning adults, but when someone is dealing with MCI (Mild Cognitive Impairment) or worse Alzheimer’s disease, too many options are confusing. Choices need to be cut down. If you aren’t familiar with cognitive diseases, the Alzheimer’s Association http://www.alz.org is a great place to start.

4. Get creative: If your loved one is resistant to traditional forms of assistance, get creative. Maybe they’d be more receptive to a house cleaner, a meal delivery service, or a rideshare service. Paradise Home Health Care offers a free consultation for families and clients. There are different ways to approach a loved one refusing assistance. Using a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA) to assist and guide you on approaching your loved one. It isn’t what you say, but how you say it in some situations. Check their location for a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA) at http://www.csa.us  to assist with some ideas and referrals to assist you to assist your loved one. There is a directory on their website by location and specialty.

5. Respect their decisions: Ultimately, our loved ones have the right to make their own decisions. If they refuse help, we need to respect their wishes while still being there for them in other ways. It may take time for them to see they do need some help. No one wants a loved one to struggle, but for certain issues, they may have to learn for themselves if they can’t effectively do the task anymore.

It’s not easy to watch our loved ones struggle, but by respecting their independence and finding creative solutions, we can help them maintain their dignity and autonomy as they age.