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What to Do When Elderly Parent Refuses Assisted Living and Caregiving Services?

Are you stressed out with your senior loved ones skipping appointments with their doctors? This may sound like a familiar scenario where an elderly family member will either insist they are still healthy enough to work or that they don't need help with daily tasks, despite their struggles. According to clinical psychologist Donna Cohen, Ph.D., many young family members are having a hard time convincing their aging parents or relatives to find caregiving services. However, aging does not have to be straining and difficult for both parties. Here are some things to do when an elderly parent refuses assisted living and caregiving services.

Aging is Quite Scary, Understand Them

Cohen who wrote the book “The Loss of Self: A Family Resource for the Care of Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders” advised that one should try to understand a person's fear about getting old instead of persistently demanding them to move into an assisted living shelter or availing services from caregivers. The author said that seniors who show anger or dreadful changes in their behaviors are actually aware of their situations. However, they don't really understand how and why they are suffering from certain bodily malfunctions such as cognitive impairment. Due to that, they tend to believe that their loved-ones, even their children, are incapable of understanding their troubles emotionally and physically. Providing them a gentle reassurance will lessen their fears about function loss. A calm situation can prevent them from feeling guilty, frustrated, helpless and angry. Understanding that elderly refusing care is common is important to making progress with your loved one. You don't have to tell straight in their faces that they are disabled. Instead, show them that despite their loss of function, they are still whole and a completely important person. In this stage, empathy and validation are what they need.

In Good Times and Bad Times, Stick with Them

Yes, they have reached the peak of their lives and that makes them too proud to the point that they think they will be okay on their own. Barbara Krane who co-authored “Coping with Your Difficult Older Parent: A Guide for Stressed-Out Children” explained that how seniors stubbornly act is comparable to how adolescents struggle with their parents. There are a lot of coping mechanisms such as yelling, walking-out and throwing tantrums, that can be very stressful for both parties. However, these should not be the reasons to give up on elderly parent refusing assisted living or caregiving services. Instead of forcing your father to stop driving, why not drive for him and just let him enjoy the ride? This way, he will realize that being dysfunctional in some aspects is not actually a completely bad thing.

Talk About the Future Possibilities Before A Health Crisis Hits

A family should always be open and prepared for possibilities of future health problems. Preparedness can be established through early conversations about how a member sees himself in the future.
Ask your parents, “Are they okay with employing a housekeeper to help them with their tasks when they get older?” “Where do they want to live when they reached their senior years?”
Mary Stehle, an expert in senior care said that patience should be present when discussing these topics. Through repetitive talks, you can discover why your mother is too meticulous and how her standards can be met by a future house helper. Through these conversations, you can also discover why and elderly parent refuses assisted living. It may be due to privacy, discomfort felt around strangers, hesitations to spend on health care, or fear of losing freedom.

Don't Let their Age Set Limits, Instead Give them Options

Elderly parents refuse assisted living and caregiving services because they feel like they no longer have freedom, independence and options. You should remember that giving them options will make them feel like their opinions still matter and that they are still an independent being. When setting appointments and schedules, why not let them choose their preferred date and time? If they still want to go for a walk and do their hobbies, explain to them that their caregivers will be their companions and not a medium of restriction.

Expert Advice REALLY Helps

It is undeniable that some seniors will not believe something unless the explanation comes from a professional.
Cohen advised that getting help from experts such as physicians, social workers, priests or even ministers can actually iron-out the difficulties in convincing an elderly parent who refuses assisted living and caregiving services. An expert can explain to them the benefits of therapies such as reducing unpleasant signs of the disease. Professionals can also provide correct answer to the concerns of seniors about treatment.

Set Priorities, List Problems

Since the need for caregiving and assisted living for elderly parents is a two-way street, problems can be experienced by both parties. To reduce these problems, listing down priorities can help a lot. Does your parent need weekly or monthly appointments with a doctor? Do you urgently need to hire a housekeeper? Will it be beneficial for both of you is the senior will just be admitted in an assisted living facility?

For instance, if your parent suffers from dementia, he can no longer attend to his regular chores. Therefore, hiring a housekeeper is a priority. Stehle said that it is not necessary to “explain every aspect of care the aide will provide before the relationship has formed.” This will prevent the senior from feeling threatened or helpless.

Love Takes Time, Take it Slow

Sure you love your parents, so you have to take everything slow once they reached their senior years. Want to take them to a doctor? How about asking the doctor to do home visits instead? Need to speak to a therapist for your parent's cognitive impairment? Why not ask him to do the session in your parent's favorite coffee shop?

Everyone is Limited

Don't force both parties too much. At the end of the day, everyone will still have his own choices. If an elderly parent refuses assisted living and caregiving services and says that it is their final decision, it's important to still give love and support. In case something bad happens, remember that it is nobody's fault and you should not feel liable nor guilty for that. And since time is precious, just make every moment count for both of you.

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Scott founded Select Home Care Portland in 2009 and has been helping seniors live their best life at home or in their local senior community ever since. As an advocate for seniors, the primary philosophy has been to listen, educate and provide… Learn More About Scott Witt

Since graduating from Harvard with an honors degree in Statistics, Jeff has been creating content in print, online, and on television. Much of his work has been dedicated to informing seniors on how to live better lives. As Editor-in-Chief of the personal… Learn More About Jeff Hoyt

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