Helping Aging Parents Who Don’t Want Help

Many adult children see concerning changes in a parent’s behavior over time – perhaps the house isn’t as clean as it used to be, bills aren’t being paid, or the parent’s personality seems different. The concern can turn into frustration when the parent refuses help or denies that they have any deficits. Here are a few insights that may help you frame such a situation and understand how you can help.

  • The behavior may be related to your parent’s desire to retain their independence. If they refuse help with bill paying or transportation, perhaps – understandably – they want to keep doing what they have always done. That’s fine as long as they are not at risk for physical harm, for example, or financial exploitation. Move slowly and gently. Try to get agreement on one or two areas where you can assist them. Try to address the issues that are a priority for them, even if they aren’t your top priorities. This will build trust and reassure your parent that you understand what is important to them.
  • Some challenging behaviors may be dementia related. Dementia-related behaviors can be very challenging to manage. It is important to encourage your parent to get an accurate diagnosis if you are seeing signs of dementia. This will help you understand treatment options, likely future care needs, and the associated costs. It is ideal to have these discussions with your parent so they can be involved in planning for the future.
  • Sometimes people with dementia lack insight into their own deficits. This can make it hard to partner with them to get care in place. This is why it is so important to ensure your loved one has advance directives that appoint you or another trusted person to make healthcare and financial decisions if they lose the capacity to do so. These documents need to be completed while the older person can still make informed decisions. If your parent has cognitive deficits and their safety or well-being are at risk, you may need to be more actively involved in their care to ensure their safety – even if they are upset with you about doing so.

Finding help

Consider involving a person your parent trusts, like their physician, their CPA, or one of their good friends, who can point out areas where your parent might be able to use some more assistance. Sometimes they will believe this trusted person more than their own child!

For parents having difficulty with their finances, encourage or help them to transition bills to an online bill paying/banking system. This will allow you to help them pay bills on time, monitor expenses, and screen for any signs of exploitation or financial abuse.

At Windward Life Care, our Aging Life Care Managers are educated and experienced in a variety of fields important to home care services, including gerontology, nursing, social work, and psychology. They have specialized focus on issues related to aging and elder care, including Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

Working with the individual and family members, we create a plan that addresses identified needs and improves quality of life while anticipating developments as the client’s situation evolves. Please feel free to contact us for a consultation.