How to Help an Aging Parent Who Doesn’t Want Help

Caring for aging parents is difficult, particularly when those parents are reluctant to accept help. There are many reasons why the elderly might resist their children’s offers of assistance.

A study of older adults from SUNY Albany found that they had a strong desire for both independence and a real connection with their children, which resulted in ambivalence about getting help from their children as they aged.

An elderly woman; image source:

Reasons Older Parents Reject Help

Elderly parents also worry about the costs, financially and emotionally, that their children will have to bear when they become the caregiver. A parent will often do anything in their power to save their children that burden.

As the adult child, you want to respect your parent’s need for independence while still ensuring they are safe and cared for, two concerns that can often seem at odds with each other. There are many ways to help your parent become more open to accepting the help they need, while maintaining the independence they crave.

Make Decisions Together

Most importantly, any decisions about your parent’s care should be made with your parent. Many times older adults perceive taking assistance as a loss of control. For an adult child who feels your parent needs help, you may make the mistake of making unilateral decisions, thinking you are operating in your parent’s best interest.

But remember that for an older person who fears a loss of independence, a child taking a decision out of their hands, however well-intentioned, will likely result in pushback. Treat your parent like an adult, and try to understand the root of any defensiveness.

Embrace Technology for Longer Independence

On a more practical note, one of the best ways to help an older adult live independently is through technology. Technology and the elderly are not two words that usually go together, but there are so many tech devices and online services that can help an aging parent’s quality of life.

Medical Alert Device

One of the best things you can do for both you and your parent is to arm them with a medical alert device. These devices are worn by the individual and alert a trained agent if something happens (a fall, a car wreck, etc.). Some medical alert systems, like the Lively Mobile from GreatCall, include helpful features like a GPS tracker and fall detection. Wearing a medical alert device will give you peace of mind, and your parent the confidence to go about their daily activities knowing help is there in case of an emergency.

Smart Technology

There are a plethora of smart technologies that can aid an older adult, from motion-activated lights to smart thermostats. Many of these can be operated by a smartphone app, allowing you to monitor and help your parent from afar using the app. One particularly helpful device is a smart medication pillbox like the Tricella Liif, which does things like sound an alarm when it is time to take medication, doling out the correct pills at the allotted time (avoiding the real danger of doubling up on medication or forgetting to take it altogether), and sending remote alerts to caregivers when the medication is taken.

Online Delivery Services

For parents with mobility issues, help them figure out online delivery services for basic needs, like Amazon for everyday items, Express Scripts for medicine, or a service like Fresh Direct for grocery delivery.

Give your parent the tools to be independent but still safe in the process.



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