Dear Donna:

My dad recently experienced a serious fall that caused him to be hospitalized for several days. Because of the coronavirus, my parents have been isolated in their northern Michigan home for months. While I bring food and supplies to them, we’ve been careful to maintain a physical distance.

Because I stayed with my mom when my dad was hospitalized, I got a true picture of how they’ve been managing on their own. It was a real eye opener. The house wasn’t the tidy place it’s always been. Their refrigerator was filled with expired foods, and it’s obvious my mom is struggling with her personal care needs.

I tried to talk with my parents about hiring a home care aide or moving to an assisted living community. The discussion didn’t go well. I can’t seem to convince them to accept more help, even from me.

Do you have any advice? I’m so worried about the outcome of living on their own if we wait any longer. It’s just so frustrating!



Communicating with a Parent Who Refuses Help

Dear Clare:

First, you aren’t alone in feeling worried and frustrated about aging parents! Nearly 80% of adult caregivers think their parents are stubborn, according to a study by Penn State University. It can lead to sleepless nights for adult children, and resentment on the part of parents.

I do have a few suggestions that may help foster cooperation and allow you to get to the core of your parents’ resistance:

  • Watch your tone and body language: Express empathy with your parents instead of seeming to placate or appear insincere. Your tone and body language need to be positive and non-judgmental. Instead of telling a parent what to do, try sharing the importance of considering a change. Explain that accepting a little help now will allow them to maintain their independence longer.
  • Dig for the underlying issue: Have you asked your parents why they won’t accept help? There are a variety of reasons older adults resist help. Sometimes they worry about losing their independence and identity. Most seniors see this as another part of life they need to handle.

Find out exactly what worries your parent about the potential change. Do they think moving to an assisted living community means losing their privacy, independence, or autonomy? Or are they concerned about finances? By expressing genuine concern, your parent may feel heard and understood. That’s an important first step.

  • Use positive language: Language is as important as tone. The Mayo Clinic suggests caregivers replace frightening eldercare terminology with friendlier language. For instance, refer to a home care provider as a companion who can help with basic chores and personal care. Talk about assisted living as a community that provides just enough support to allow residents to remain independent.
  • Enlist a trusted advisor: Sometimes aging parents might be more willing to listen to a trusted advisor who isn’t part of the family. It could be their clergy, doctor, or another health care professional such as a social worker. They may be able to persuade your aging loved one that accepting assistance is necessary for staying safe and healthy.

I hope these tips are helpful, Clare! If you have more questions or would like to arrange a virtual tour, please call the Heritage Senior Community nearest you!

Kind regards,


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