What to Do When Your Parents Refuse Help

(This information is not intended for parents who have cognitive impairments)

  1. Try to understand the motivation behind their behavior. Are they acting this way out of habit, to assert independence, or because they’re depressed or confused? What are they afraid of? What are their fears and concerns?
  2. Decide how important the matter is. Is it a safety issue or something that is just irritating but inconsequential? As the saying goes, pick your battles.
  3. Blame it on the kids (that would be you) or the grandkids. If Mom isn’t willing to change her behavior for herself, would she do it for a loved one? Will they do it for the grandchildren. Another approach is to say to your parent, “You don’t want me to worry, right? This (fill in the blank) will give me enormous peace of mind. Please do it for me!”
  4. Think ahead. Is there a milestone they want to be around for, such as a wedding, graduation or anniversary? Then bring it up!
  5. Find an outside outlet for your feelings. If you’re angry or resentful that Dad’s not with the program, vent to, confide in, or strategize with a geriatric care manager, geriatrician, therapist, friend, sibling or online support group rather than your parents.
  6. Treat them like the adults they are. Be careful not to infantilize parents. Dealing with a stubborn parent is not the same as dealing with a stubborn child. Older people should be autonomous.
  7. Accept the situation. You may want your mantra to be “It is what it is.” Said another way, “you can take a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.” Or, “they are adults with the right to make decision – even poor ones.”
  8. Don’t beat yourself up. The timing may not be right. Don’t get into a battle. Return to the subject later. My advice is not to hit your head against the wall too hard. There isn’t a lot we can do sometimes but stand by, watch closely and be able to jump in when needed.
  9. Seek advice. Sometimes an outside professional can talk with your parent and they will listen. They can be more objective and not as emotional involved. This places the “bad news” on the professional, taking the responsibility off of you.

Contact our office if you face these situations, we are available to help with objective information and strategies. Often, it is helpful to seek help. We are here to help you. No cost. No obligation. Call 410.571-2744.

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