What to do when your elderly parent refuses care

Taking care of an elderly parent can be an emotionally complex and difficult thing that one has to do.  You may have noticed that they aren’t keeping up with medications and doctor’s appointments, not eating, not maintaining their personal hygiene or the home is always unclean.  You would have made plenty of suggestions but they still refuse or get angry.

It all comes down to making sure they feel safe and secure in the environment they live in.  At some point however, you will probably need to step in and make hard decisions for their safety.  Here are a few tips to help you:

  1. Make him/her feel empowered: Your loved one may worry that they are losing their independence and can feel helpless.  Empower them by letting them make the decisions about their care as much as it is safely possible. Give them options instead of orders.
  2. Understand their concerns: Try and understand why they may not be taking a bath – do they feel that they may slip and fall? Or do they feel tired standing up for a shower? Try out some creative ways or assistive technology to overcome their fears.  Are they not taking their medication because of its side effects?  Speak to their doctor to see if some other medicine can be recommended. Are they refusing to eat?  Try giving soft food as they may be finding it difficult to chew and swallow.  Be respectful of your parent’s concern and do not downplay them even if they seem insignificant to you.
  3. Speak up early: Although it is hard, it is important to take that step and speak to your parent before a crisis can happen. Figure out if they have fears or concerns about their present care and aging.  By speaking to them regularly, you can build that trust with them over time.
  4. Share your own concerns: Your parent will always want to lessen the burden that they place on their family.  By letting them know that you are scared for their well-being, it will help establish a trust as they would not want you to worry about them.
  5. Manage emotions: Taking care of a parent can involve them getting angry with you frequently.  Be prepared for this and do not take it personally.
  6. Bring in help: Is there someone else who can persuade your parent?  Look for someone they respect and trust such as a friend, doctor or even a religious person.  You may find that your parent is more comfortable dealing with your spouse or your child than to you. Use these good relationships to your advantage.  It can also be time to consider in-house care such as a housekeeper or a Homecare Nurse.

It is important to remind yourself that your elderly parent is still that strong person who once took care of you emotionally, physically and financially. Talk to them as an equal and do not treat them as a child.  Savor these moments as this is an opportunity to spend quality time and gain their wisdom that they worked hard to earn throughout their life.