What to Do When an Elderly Patient Refuses Care

As we get older, there are many things we just cannot do anymore – or can’t do without assistance from others. However, accepting that there are things we can’t do anymore can be difficult for almost anyone and so when someone tries to help you it can be defeating. 

What to Do When an Elderly Patient Refuses Care

What’s even worse is when you’re watching your parents get older and their health declining but they don’t want to accept help from anyone – even if they are struggling with getting every day tasks done. 

So, how do you talk to your parents about accepting the help being offered to them when they’re so stubborn about it in the first place? Well, that can be tough. 


For people who have been independent their whole life, having someone come in to help them get dressed or prepare meals can feel like they’re really losing something. If they aren’t ready to hear what you have to say, or even accept that they might need help, you might feel as though you’re going around in circles and are just helpless. 

You care about your parents and you want what’s best for them, you want to make sure they are being taken care of and they are not at risk for getting hurt when you can’t be there. 

Here are some tips and ideas for talking to your parents when they’re refusing to accepting help or the extra care you know they need. 

Be Clear About Why You’re Doing This

You try to talk to you parent about the concerns you have for their health, but every time you bring it up they feel hurt or angry and you just end up fighting. So you feel like you’re going around in circles and no one is having their concerns heard. 

Sound familiar? A discussion with your parent that is going to limit their independence usually has this kind of outcome – who wants to hear that you think they can’t take care of themselves anymore?

Suggesting home healthcare or going into an assisted living facility is not something any child will take lightly, and really you want to make sure your parents are being taken care of. It’s just that it’s so hard to accept that we can’t do certain things anymore or can’t take care of ourselves. 

Try to talk to them about why you’re doing this, and not just suggesting that they need to consider long-term care. Explain your reasoning to them and do it in a way that you are not talking down to them or as though you know best. 

Listen to their concerns, too, and try to have a open discussion instead of just telling them this is what they’re going to do. 

Think About It From Their Perspective

Your parent isn’t resisting the idea of extra care just for something fun to do, they probably have genuine fears and concerns about what this means for them and their future. 

Sometimes seniors are resistant to getting help because it would mean admitting they need the help and they don’t want to feel like a burden to anyone. For others, they may be afraid of change or that accepting the help means they are no long competent to do basic things like get themselves dressed or feed themselves. 

senior feeding himself

Once you understand why it is that your parent is resisting your ideas about homecare or long-term care, you can frame the conversation accordingly so that you’re communicating on the same page. 

You can also use their language to express your concerns and how getting some help may alleviate some of your worries. 

For example, your parent may be worried about the extra cost of having someone come into their home and help them. However, outside of the cost knowing that someone is checking in on your parent and making sure they’re eating properly can ease your mind and help alleviate your stress levels. So you can communicate to them that it isn’t about the money. 

If they’re still worried about the cost, perhaps you can show them how you can help with the cost or have a plan for ensuring the cost doesn’t seriously affect them. 

Don’t Treat Them Differently

When it comes to seeking out long-term care for our parents, we often infantilize them – even if we don’t mean to. Our parents have been strong and provided care for us for most of our lives, so when the roles are changing it can be new territory for everyone. 

Also, when you go to visit a long-term care home it’s important to remember you are seeing the best possible sides and set ups for living there – this may not be what their daily life is like. They may feel alone and, in their eyes, it’s not where they want to live. 

If you really want your parent to consider some form of care or assisted living, make sure you treat them with respect and as though they are still fully capable of making their own decisions. Treating them like they can’t make their own choices, or like they’re a child, will not be productive for having a conversation or getting them to consider long-term or home care. 

Observe Their Real Needs

As our parents age, and we start to notice that they need a little help, we may be quick to offer solutions for home care and other kinds of help but it might not be what they really need. 

So if you’re finding that your parent is really resistant to the suggestions you have it could be because you’re offering them a solution that doesn’t really help them in the way they need. 

Additionally, parents are going to be more likely to take your advice and listen to your suggestions if they feel like you’re actually listening to what they have to say and their concerns. On top of that, you can help them make better health and lifestyle choices when you truly understand where they are coming from and what their real concerns are. 

If you keep telling your parent what they need, they will feel like they’re being treated like a child and will probably shut down altogether. 

Be Prepared, but Not Defensive

As anyone who has an aging parent knows, talking about their long-term care options often is frustrating and both sides feel at a loss for how to move forward. 

helping old woman to stand up

Accepting change and that they’re aging is going to be difficult for your parent even without you suggesting that they get some help around the house. 

Whenever you do talk to them about this, be prepared that they will probably be pretty resistant in the beginning. It’s a natural response to get defensive when they do but it’s really important you try not to. 

Keep an open mind about why they are concerned about certain things and try to talk to them or find a way to alleviate their worries – if you can. 

It’s really important to hear them out and not shut them down, as that is often where the conversation goes off track and communication stops being productive.

Acknowledge that their fears and concerns are justified and be prepared with discussion points about how home care of long-term care can help them. Showing them the positive side of what you’re talking about can go a long way with getting your parents some care. 

Consider Compromising

If you think it’s time for your parent to move into a long-term care facility this may be a little too much change all at once for them – and that’s ok. 

If you start noticing things – like maybe they are having trouble with bathing or dressing themselves – then maybe a homecare worker is more appropriate than going into a long-term care home. 

While you want to make sure they are well cared for – completely understandable – they may not be ready to give up their independence completely. So perhaps you try having someone come into their home to help them a few days a week.

By doing this, you will alleviate your worry about them being alone but they don’t have to completely move out of the home they’ve been in for so many years. 

Having an aging parent is really hard – there’s so much worry about whether they can take care of themselves and if they’re going to get hurt when someone isn’t around to help them. You may also worry that they are not eating properly if someone else isn’t preparing the meals for them. 

Keep in mind that your loved one is likely scared and overwhelmed with the changes coming, and they don’t want to admit that they need help or feel like a burden to their family and friends. 

Try to make sure they understand you’re coming from a place of genuine concern and remember to express that you love them and you want what’s best for them. Keep their fears and concerns at the front of your mind and make sure to acknowledge them during the discussions you have.