Is it possible to help someone, even when they don’t want your help? Is there a way that your aging parent can graciously accept your help, yet still keep their pride and sense of dignity? What if a parent is just too difficult? Well-meaning family caregivers often ask these types of questions. Try not to take it personally if you find yourself feeling trapped in a power struggle.

Understandably, parents sometimes resist offers of help. There are VALID REASONS for aging parents to resist or refuse help, such as:

  • Tradition. Sometimes parents simply decline help out of habit. Since they traditionally took care of themselves in the past, why would it seem different now?
  • Humility. Asking one’s children for help may equate to admitting one’s physical or mental decline and that can be an unpleasant thought for many people.
  • Privacy. If your parent has been a private person by nature, communicating health concerns may feel like too much of a breach of privacy.
  • Expense. Your parent might be considering a needed expense as frivolous and worry that they are being a financial burden to loved ones.

6 Ideas to Help Parents Accept Assistance

Now that you have a good start in the understanding and accepting of parental resistance, the following ideas may help your parents accept your offers of assistance. Even if you anticipate a battle ahead, you may be surprised to find that these tips may lead to familial peace.

  1. Let the parent achieve a task on their own when possible.

With declining vision, lessened hand-eye coordination, and stiff joints, simple tasks like tying shoelaces can become tricky. After allowing a few unsuccessful attempts, an offer like, “Maybe I can get those laces tied for you” could be welcomed.

  1.  Change your questions to simple statements.

When you ask a question like, “May I tie your shoelaces for you?” you may receive an automatic “no,” but a statement that infers that you’re just “pitching in” may have less resistance. Replace lace-up shoes with Velcro closure shoes, which are easier to tighten and release. When it’s time for a new pair, don’t ask. Just confirm the shoe size and deliver to them a new pair.

  1.  Keep a united front with other loved ones. 

When there comes a time for a decision to be made, like deciding if it is time for Mom or Dad to stop driving, it is important that all parties are on the same page. Although this can be a difficult conversation, having others involved (like a sibling) who are of the same opinion can be very valuable.

  1.  Provide options with your requests.

An alternative to your loved one giving up their driving licenses can be for family members to drive them as needed. Other options include driving services like GoGoGrandparent or Uber. You can also use a local taxi service or public transit, like Green Mountain Transit or Special Services Transportation Agency in Burlington.

  1.  Introduce change slowly…and early.

Some changes will be easier than others. Begin to offer small items of assistance. With the acceptance of these things, continue to offer bigger items. When you introduce conversations about difficult changes early on, it’s easier for everyone to adjust.

  1.  Involve the family doctor.

When parental resistance is still too much, you may have to call for back-up! Older adults may fight fervently against adult children, yet the same seniors may be open to suggestions from a doctor. Try the family doctor when you can’t convince Mom and/or Dad to accept help. Set an appointment for him or her and allow the doctor to discuss these challenging topics with them instead.