As your elderly relatives face the challenges of advancing age, it’s understandable that they don’t want to lose the things that make their lives their own. Their car may well have become a symbol of independence, and their home is their sanctuary, filled with memories of better times. To give these things up can feel like ‘giving up’ – and that would be a step too far.

Before pressuring an elderly relative too hard to accept live-in care, try to understand their fears. Think to yourself “my elderly parent refuses care, but why? What are the reasons?” They may feel that they are being pushed aside or forgotten, worn thin by the physical and mental strains of growing older while not wanting to admit they are struggling.

What to do when an elderly person refuses care

Knowing what to do when an elderly person refuses care can be difficult, but we’ve compiled some useful tips that may help:

1. Start early

It’s good if families can have easy-going conversations about care long before there’s any kind of problem. Look for opportunities to broach the subject and ask questions like: “Where do you see yourself living when you get older?” or “How would you feel about hiring someone to help clean, go to the shops and that sort of thing?”

2. Be patient

When it comes to an elderly relative refusing care, it’s important to ask open questions and give them time to think and answer. Conversations may be repetitive and tangential, and go off in distracting directions, but persevere and you will eventually reach an arrangement that suits them and provides a sense of control.

3. Don’t be ignored

Try to work out why your elderly relative is refusing care. Is it about a lack of privacy? Or fears about the cost, losing independence or having a stranger in the house? Listen to your loved one and try to understand their point of view rather than dismiss their feelings.

4. Offer different care options

If possible, get your relative directly involved in deciding what help is needed. Make sure they are central to the decision-making process. You could give them the opportunity to sit in on discussions about live-in carer matching services such as Ivy Palamer Homecare, for example. Also, encourage them to see the carer as a companion, rather than someone who is going to alter their lives completely.

5. Bring in a health care professional

Sometimes it’s easier for an older person to talk to a professional rather than a family member. Don’t hesitate to ask a doctor, nurse or community leader to broach the subject of their care needs. Health care professionals are used to dealing with issues surrounding refusal of care, and they may have communication tools that they can share with you to make the conversation easier.

6. Prioritise

Make a list of your concerns and your relative’s issues and problems. Number each point depending on its urgency. You can also note down steps that should be taken to resolve the problems. This will also help keep you on top of everything and prevent you from feeling overwhelmed.

7. Keep things general

Depending on the health condition of your loved one, it’sometimes best to give just the important information rather than every single detail (if your loved one has dementia, for example). You could let your relative know that a carer will be coming to help them out on a particular day, but don’t feel you have to explain everything about of what this will entail.

8. Take it slowly

Gradually introducing a carer to the home will allow your loved one to become comfortable with their presence and naturally develop a natural rapport. Perhaps arrange a short period of care as a trial so that you can get to know them over a coffee, or maybe ask them to assist with a shopping trip or other light tasks at first.

9. Accept your limits

As long as they are not endangering themselves or others, an elderly relative refusing care should be able to make their own choices. You can’t be by their side all of the time and you’re not able to prevent every bad thing from happening. Accept what you can accomplish and don’t feel guilty if you have to say “no”.

Caring for a relative at home

We understand that it can be hard to know what to do when an elderly relative refuses help, and that you may need some additional support. If you would like to arrange a free informal chat without obligations then please do not hesitate to contact us. Alternatively, you can email us at