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How to Cope with an Elderly Parent Who Rejects Outside Help

Last updated on February 13, 2022

You love your dad. You want to be there for him. But playing the role of full-time caregiver has you exhausted, feeling hopeless and maybe a little resentful.

Your parent is determined to reject professional support. And it’s stressing you out even more.

You’re not alone. Family caregivers are at risk for high levels of stress, exhaustion, anxiety and depression. According to the National Center on Caregiving, this is a major concern. It can lead to feelings of anger, frustration and even resentment.

If you continue to be the caregiver without enough support, you put your own health at risk. The ramifications of burnout are not just limited to health either. Caregiving full-time can cause absence at work, meaning you could ultimately be at risk of losing income and health benefits.

Your well-being is just as important as your parent’s health, and you can provide the best care when you’re mentally and physically rested.

It is important for both you and your loved one that you’re persistent about getting the right layers of support added to your family.

It’s okay to say: “I need help.”

Here are three steps to coping with your parent who refuses help, including some sample conversation starters:

  1. Understand the Importance of Your Own Health

    When an elderly parent has a chronic condition like dementia or feels lonely, you may think taking a break is selfish and unthinkable.

    The reality is that the role of a family caregiver takes a toll on your emotional, mental and physical health. Anger, depression, exhaustion, guilt and isolation are all common side effects of caregiving stress.

    Do not risk further damage to your own health, because your health decline will negatively impact the quality of care for your parent. 

    A burned-out caregiver will not be a very effective or sustainable caregiver. (See our guide on 10 realistic ways to manage caregiver stress.)

    Your parent may not be open to outside help because he or she is not fully aware of the heavy burden you're shouldering. As you bear more responsibilities for your parent, he or she will become even more dependent on you.

  2. Consult with Professional Caregivers

    Plan to find respite care so you can recharge and avoid dangerous caregiver burnout.

    A caregiver can visit your parent's home to help with things like dressing and bathing, or they can provide transportation to the doctor's appointments or the grocery. That same caregiver can be a companion who joins your mom or dad for a cup of coffee on the porch or who accompanies your parent to an art class.

    Even if it’s only a few hours a week, that relief window may be one way to introduce your parent to the idea of more home care. 

    If your parent still refuses outside help, consider having ongoing conversations. Remember to stress your need to improve both your parent’s life and your own health. Explain patiently how you cannot do this alone forever.

  3. Start Talking

    Below are sample conversation starters. Each scenario is a chance to make your case for recruiting outside help.

    It’s possible your parent is fearful and unwilling to explore elder care options. Leverage support from people you trust -- a spouse or a doctor, a family friend.

    Stay positive when having the conversation. Don’t speak out of anger or frustration. With plenty of patience and tact, you may slowly turn the tide.

SCENARIO: You are missing work too many days to be a caregiver.

SAY: I’ve been out from work too many days and I don’t want to risk losing my job. But I worry too much about being here when you need me. I’m wondering how we can figure out the best of both worlds. I’ve been hearing great things about a professional caregiver who can stop in and help you with a few things. Would you be open to that?

SCENARIO: Your parent just came back after a trip to the hospital.

SAY: I’m so glad you’re home. We will work together to help you recover, so you won’t have to go back to the hospital again. We will also need the support of a professional who knows how to help avoid re-admittance. I want to be confident that you're taken care of when I cannot be there all the time. Let's talk to this person together. I think you’ll be pleased.

SCENARIO: Your parent sees you are unhappy and overwhelmed.

SAY: I am tired and sad because I haven’t been able to get much sleep lately. Life is really hectic these days. I will need to get away for a short break. But don’t worry. I’ve made sure you’ll still get help. A friendly professional is available for a few days.  We'll meet this person together.

After a successful conversation, follow up with a trusted professional. Ask for a consultation and to meet a professional caregiver. Start with respite care, then expand to other services as your parent gets more comfortable. 
If you're interested in our compassionate home care services for you or a loved one, contact your nearest Visiting Angels home care agency today or call 800-365-4189.
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