When an aging parent refuses home or personal care assistance

Published 11:44 am Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Ron Kauffman

Senior Lifestyles


Today, out of love and concern, many boomers face the challenge of trying to increase the level of in-home assistance for an aging parent. Doing so is in many cases can be an uphill battle. Mom or dad may not realize that they need help, after all, if it’s mom, you’ll always be her little girl or boy and she doesn’t want help.

The issue usually is that your mother most likely doesn’t see herself as needing help. She’ll no doubt remind you that she raised the family, has been your father’s care provider for decades, and even in their retirement, nothing’s changed. She’s sees herself as the independent woman, and everything’s fine. But too often that’s not the case.

The challenges for adult children can range from the conflicting demands of a full time job versus making time to care for a parent. That can impact your work and your health. Then there’s the fact that bringing in outside help is expensive and can create a personal financial hardship. Getting mom to agree to accepting help that, up until now, you’ve been providing is a difficult, but not totally insurmountable challenge.

Remember when mom would use guilt tripping to make you do something? Perhaps it’s time to use that same tactic on her to make your point. You can begin by telling your mother that you know that she would never want your health to suffer. But between the demands on your time at work and doing things for her, it’s just become too much for you, and it’s affecting your health, work and home situation. Tell her that it’s you, not mom, who needs some help, and you’d like to bring someone in to get some of the many things done that you simply no longer have time or energy to do.

Also, if she can be reasoned with, explain that your worried “sick” about her being alone and the possibility of her falling or being injured.

No one likes change, it’s difficult, and even more so for seniors who have been independent for so very long. Rather than talk about a “forever” situation, suggest a trial period with a care provider who can be a companion, homemaker to shop, cook and clean or perhaps a CNA, who is better trained than even you to provide help with simple personal care or assistance with the activities of daily living (ADLs) – eating, bathing, dressing, toileting and transferring from a bed or chair to another location.

What you’re really doing is “selling” an idea, and rather than ask mom’s permission, assertively state that all you want is for mom to give it a try. Do not make cost a factor for your mom, even if you have to tell her that for the 30-day period, and there is no charge. That’s okay. Remember the goal is to protect and care for mom.

Have her join you as you interview a number of candidates from agencies that provide the type of service you believe best suites mom’s needs. After meeting with a number of potential candidates, allow mom to make the decision which candidate she’d like with her after the interview process. This gives mom a choice and a sense of control in this situation. And it’s just a trial.

Sometimes caring for mom is a reversal of roles, and you must step in and be the strong guiding hand to protect her from making poor, emotionally based decisions. In some cases, you may have to tell mom that someone is coming to her home to help her and that you’ll feel better knowing that. It’ll be someone there with her to do the things that you’ve done for her previously, but you’re no longer available, and that the decision is not up for discussion.

What is often amazing, in most cases, whether it was with mom’s blessing or against her wishes, is seeing mom become used to accepting the outside assistance, and on occasion telling you things like “…I don’t know how I got along before Mary was here to help me.” While it’s true that you were doing everything before Mom hired Mary, allow the comment to slide. You and mom both won, and your goal will have been achieved.

Ron Kauffman is a Consultant & Expert Speaker on Issues of Aging. Contact him at 828-696-9799 or by email to drron561@gmail.com.