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What if My Aging Relative Resists "Outside" Help? Helping Seniors Accept Help

Despite an obvious need for assistance, a senior's urge to remain independent is often strong.
Despite an obvious need for assistance, a senior's urge to remain independent is often strong.

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April 12, 2010

Two of the most important issues for seniors are to remain independent and keep living in their own home. But health and cognitive issues can sometimes make normal day to day living a bit more challenging.

While some seniors accept assistance with no problem, many others can be initially resistant to the thought of someone helping them, particularly if the assistance is provided by a non-family member.

In many cases though, assistance is necessary in order to maintain the safety and well-being of the senior, and the peace of mind of the family.

Despite an obvious need for assistance, sometimes the urge to remain independent is strong. According to a survey by Home Instead Senior Care, only one-quarter of seniors actually ask for help directly, so encountering resistance from the other 75% is very normal at first.

If you're wondering if you might be overreacting or if your loved one's situation truly calls for a need for additional care, Home Instead Senior Care pulled together a list about the top 10 situations that prompted family members to provide a senior with additional assistance. They are:

  1. An injury/illness/medical condition left the older relative less able to function independently
  2. Advanced age made the older relative less able to function independently
  3. The family noticed that the elderly relative was becoming burdened by their every day tasks
  4. The older person asked for help directly
  5. The family member would feel guilty if they didn't offer to help out
  6. The older person needed more assistance after the death of a spouse or partner
  7. The older relative would have had to move or leave their home if some assistance was not provided
  8. The family noticed that the parent/relative was losing interest in some of the activities they used to enjoy
  9. Family members noticed that the parent/relative was losing weight
  10. Family members noticed that the parent/relative's appearance was deteriorating

If your senior loved one falls into one or more of those categories and you approach them about getting outside support and they still resist, below are some suggestions from the American Geriatrics Society about how to overcome their reluctance.

  • If a family member is stretched thin with their caregiving duties, sometimes he or she just needs to ask the senior to do things to make his/her life easier—as a favor, which includes having an additional caregiver step in to help out. Use the phrase, "I would feel so much better if I knew that you had more help, someone to do your food shopping, someone to take you to the drug store, someone to be here when I can't, etc…"
  • Instead of the family caregiver suggesting additional assistance, have a trusted third party suggest to the senior that they hire a professional caregiver. Perhaps his/her doctor, geriatric care manager, best friend, priest, etc. could play this advice-giving role.
  • Show how a service will make it possible to remain independent longer in his/her own home. Most of these professional caregiving services provide free consultation to assess the senior's specific situation and make recommendations.
  • If the senior continues to show signs of problems (e.g. burning pots of foods, missing doses of important medication or falling at home) use these events as a time to discuss your safety concerns and suggest additional assistance options.
  • If the senior is still resistant, but is a danger to himself/herself, speak to an elder law specialist about taking steps to become a Guardian to your family member so that you can make decisions for them.

Certainly some of these situations are more difficult than others. But reaching out to others can make your senior's life easier and lessen your stress.

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. April 5, 2014 at 10:21 pm | Posted by Lynn

    I am caring for a friend ex boyfriend with alzehimer. I Am a caregiver for a 92 year old lady. That is my paying job. I work 46 to 50 hours a week. I try to check on my friend at lest twice a day. I try to eat at lest one meal a day with them. I make sure l speak with them in the moring and at night, to make sure they take there medicine. I can not get his childern involed with his care. They really do not care for me, but they do not seem to mind my taking on his care. I will never leave his care to some one eles, because l do not belive he will be cared for. They have showen no signs they will care for him. Even when l say l need a break. I maked a promise to him l l would make sure he recived better care than his father recived. How do l get them involed. Amy l doing wrong by taken care of him.?


  2. January 14, 2011 at 10:18 pm | Posted by Shirley

    My husband is 11ears older than me he has heart and alzehimers health problems Little did I know that my cna training on alzheimers would be used on my own husband. I have found the articles that mayo clinik puts out helps me . I let my husband read these articles he knows things are happening to him but dosn.t want to except it.He has been told if he dosn't follow the safety rules to prevent broken bones I will not be able to keep him at home. You have to find time to go have coffee by your self or with a friend, Always make time for your self or you will not be able to hang in there. There are many programs out there that will help you make your days better. Drs are a great help when they are the one to tell that family member what is going wrong in there life and how things wil change.Wish I could talk to you more. Love Shirley


  3. October 29, 2010 at 10:52 am | Posted by joan pullen

    my husband is younger than me and he has parkinsons ocd and beginning stages of alzeimers he won"t accept this and thinks that theres nothing wrong with him so he thinks that he can do anything he stresses me out badly because he won"t accept outside help I need some ideas on how to relieve my stress i"m please anyone with ideas please send and I thank you may God be with you


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