How to Deal with Aging Parents Who Resist Help: 18 Tips

If your parents respond to offers of help with resistance, frustration, or even anger, know that you're not alone.

More than three-quarters of adult children describe their aging parents as stubborn, according to a study on perceptions of aging parents' attitudes.

This stubbornness can appear in many ways, like refusing help with everyday tasks or sticking to old opinions. Disagreements between parents and their adult children are common, and can make it harder to give older parents the care they need.

Resistance to accepting help is a widespread issue that highlights the complexities of how different generations relate to each other. It also shows how difficult it can be to talk about aging and caregiving. Understanding why this resistance happens and finding better ways to communicate is essential.

It's crucial to remember that your aging parents are still adults who deserve respect and understanding. While wanting the best for them is natural, respecting their wishes and autonomy as much as possible is equally important. With patience, empathy, and the right approach, you can navigate these difficult situations while preserving your relationship with your parents.

This article will explore why older adults may resist help, offer practical tips for open and honest conversations, and guide you on balancing respecting your parents' independence with making sure they're safe and well-cared for.

18 Tips for Dealing with Elderly Parents

Understand Their Reasons for Resistance

Resistance often stems from complex emotions and fears. It's essential to dig deeper to uncover the root causes. Are they afraid of losing their cherished home, filled with memories? Is the thought of giving up driving, a symbol of freedom and independence causing them anxiety? Perhaps they dread the disruption of their daily routines, which provide a sense of comfort and stability.

Are they worried about becoming a burden to their loved ones, both financially and emotionally? Do they fear that accepting help will mean losing control over their lives? Or perhaps they're experiencing cognitive changes that they're trying to hide, leading to a fear of judgment or losing their sense of self.

Once you understand their fears and concerns, you can tailor your communication and approach with empathy and compassion. For instance, if they fear losing their home, you can reassure them that there are options to help them age in place safely. If they're worried about being a burden, remind them how much joy they bring to your life and how you want to support them in any way you can.

Practical Tip: Engage in a calm, open-ended conversation with your parent. Ask questions like, "What are your biggest concerns about getting older?" or "What aspects of your life are most important to you right now?" Listen actively to their responses without judgment. This will help you identify their specific fears and concerns so you can address them directly.

Validate Their Feelings and Concerns

Let your parents know you respect their concerns and validate their feelings of frustration, sadness, fear, or anger. Reassure them it's okay for them to feel these emotions. Acknowledging how they're feeling can help them feel seen and heard.

Phrases like "I understand this is hard for you," "It's okay to feel overwhelmed," or "I can see why you're upset" can go a long way with older adults when it comes to building trust and opening communication.

For example, if your dad resists getting a hearing aid, you could say, "Dad, I know you're frustrated that your hearing isn't what it used to be. It's understandable to feel that way."

Practical Tip: Reflect back what you hear your parent saying to show you're listening and empathizing. For instance, if they say, "I don't want to be a burden," respond with, "I hear that you're worried about being a burden. That's a common concern, and feeling that way is okay."

Communicate Clearly and Respectfully

Open and honest conversations are key. That means being upfront about your concerns and why you believe they need help. Explain the specific challenges you've observed and how they impact their safety, health, or well-being.

Avoid blaming language. Phrases like "You're being stubborn" or "You can't take care of yourself anymore" are hurtful and unproductive. Instead, focus on how the help you're offering can improve their quality of life or alleviate specific problems.

Express your concerns from your perspective using "I" statements. This can help your parents understand your motivations and avoid feeling attacked or judged. For example, instead of saying, "You need to stop driving," try saying, "I'm worried about your safety when you're driving, and I'd feel better if you considered other transportation options."

Practical Tip: Frame your conversations around how the help you suggest can benefit them. For example, instead of saying, "You need to hire someone to clean the house," say, "I've noticed that keeping up with the house has been tiring for you lately. What if we explored hiring a cleaning service to give you more energy for the things you enjoy?"

Involve Them in Decision-Making

Give your parents a sense of control whenever possible by offering them choices. Instead of saying, "You need to move to assisted living," ask them what kind of living situation they would prefer and explore options together.

Likewise, ask for their opinions and preferences on matters related to their care. This could include everything from the type of home modifications they want to the activities they'd like to participate in.

For example, if they need help with household chores, ask them which tasks they find most challenging and discuss options for getting assistance, whether hiring a cleaning service or enlisting the help of family and friends. Some caregiver apps even include features that make coordinating help among loved ones easy.

Practical Tip: Present options rather than ultimatums. If your parent needs home care, research a few reputable agencies and let them choose the one they feel most comfortable with. If they need to change their living situation, involve them in touring potential facilities or discussing home modifications.

Encourage Independence Whenever Possible

Focus on your parents' abilities by celebrating what they can still do rather than dwelling on what they can't. Encourage them to engage in activities they enjoy and find ways for them to contribute to family life.

If certain tasks have become difficult, find ways to modify them so they can still participate while maintaining independence and autonomy.

Practical Tip: Break down tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. If your dad struggles with cooking an entire meal, perhaps he can still chop vegetables or set the table. This allows him to stay involved while adapting to his changing abilities (and will hopefully make caregiving easier for you, too!).

Buy JubileeTV

Be Patient as They Adjust to New Norms

Recognize that changes in abilities or lifestyle can be deeply emotional for your parents. The loss of independence, physical limitations, or changes in routine can trigger feelings of grief, sadness, and even anger. Give them time and space to process these emotions.

Regularly reassure your parents that you're there for them and that you love and support them unconditionally. Help them see that these changes, while challenging, don't diminish their value or worth.

For example, perhaps your dad, a lifelong avid reader, is struggling with his vision and can no longer enjoy books as he once did. He resists the idea of audiobooks, claiming they "aren't the same." Instead of pushing him, you could gradually introduce audiobooks by starting with short stories or articles. You could also offer to read to him, creating a shared experience. Celebrating his willingness to try new formats, even if he doesn't love them initially, will encourage him to adapt and explore new ways to enjoy his favorite pastime.

Practical Tip: Set realistic expectations for the pace of change. Don't expect them to embrace new routines or assistive devices overnight. Instead, focus on gradual adjustments. Start with small changes and gradually increase them over time. For example, if they resist using a walker, begin by encouraging them to use it for short distances around the house. As they become more comfortable, gradually increase the distance. Celebrate their progress and patience along the way.

Establish Boundaries

Prioritize your own well-being and mental health by setting healthy boundaries. This is essential for your own physical and emotional health. Caregiving can be demanding, and it's important to protect your well-being so you can continue to provide support.

Have open and honest conversations with your parents about what you're able and willing to do. Explain your limitations and discuss options for filling in the gaps, such as hiring a home health aide or seeking help from other family members.

Let's say you've been providing daily transportation for your mom to various appointments, but it's starting to interfere with your work and personal life. You could talk with her about your situation and suggest alternatives, such as utilizing a senior transportation service or ride-sharing program a few days a week. You can maintain a healthy balance between caregiving and your needs by clearly communicating your limitations and exploring solutions together.

Practical Tip: Create a written care plan that outlines everyone's roles and responsibilities. This can help avoid misunderstandings and ensure everyone is on the same page. Revisit the plan regularly as needs change.

Recognize Signs of Fear and Anxiety

Your mother has recently become more irritable, and you've noticed she's started watching television at odd hours. When you ask her about it, she says she's "just tired." Recognizing these as potential signs of anxiety, you could gently encourage her to talk about any worries she might have. You could also suggest relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises or mindfulness meditation, to help her manage her anxiety.

Resistance is often a mask for deeper emotions like fear and anxiety. Pay attention to subtle clues, such as changes in sleep patterns, appetite, or mood.

If you suspect your parent is feeling anxious or scared, create a safe space for them to express their feelings. Use open-ended questions like, "What's on your mind?" or "Tell me more about how you're feeling."

Practical Tip: Offer reassurance and support. Remind them that they're not alone and that you're there to help them through this challenging time. Encourage them to seek professional help if their anxiety is impacting their quality of life.

Educate Yourself on Cognitive Decline

If your parent has dementia or Alzheimer's disease, it's crucial to learn about these conditions and how they affect thinking, memory, and behavior. This knowledge can help you better understand their reactions, develop effective communication strategies, and identify the best dementia care technology options.

For example, your dad has been diagnosed with early-stage dementia. You've noticed his memory loss becoming more frequent. He often forgets appointments or repeats the same questions. By attending a dementia care workshop, you learn about communication strategies that can help you connect with him more effectively. You discover the importance of speaking slowly and clearly, using visual cues, and focusing on the emotions behind his words. This knowledge of cognitive impairment allows you to navigate challenging situations better and maintain a positive relationship with him.

Consult with their doctor, join a support group, or read reputable resources to learn more about cognitive decline. The more you know, the better equipped you'll be to handle challenging situations with compassion and understanding.

Practical Tip: Attend workshops or training sessions specifically designed for caregivers of individuals with dementia. These programs can provide valuable insights and practical skills for managing challenging behaviors and maintaining a positive relationship.

Help Them Stay Connected

Isolation can worsen feelings of loneliness and depression, which can fuel resistance. Help your parents maintain social ties by encouraging them to visit with friends and family, participate in community activities, or join social clubs.

If in-person interactions are limited, consider using technology to help them stay connected. Video calls, social media, and online groups can provide valuable social interaction and reduce feelings of isolation.

Practical Tip: Help them create a weekly schedule that includes social activities, appointments, and outings. This can give them a sense of structure and purpose while ensuring they have regular social interaction.

Encourage Social Activities

Help your parents find activities that align with their interests and abilities. This could include anything from joining a book club or gardening group to volunteering at a local organization.

If mobility is an issue, investigate transportation options such as senior transportation services or ride-sharing programs.

Practical Tip: Research senior centers, community centers, and faith-based organizations in your area. Many of these organizations offer a variety of activities and social programs specifically designed for seniors.

Avoid Power Struggles - Pick Your Battles

Not every disagreement needs to be a fight. Focus on the issues that truly matter, such as ensuring your parents are safe, healthy, and well-cared for. Let go of minor disagreements that don't impact their overall well-being.

Compromise when possible and look for opportunities to find solutions that work for both of you.

Practical Tip: If your parent insists on doing something that's not harmful but might not be the best choice, consider letting it go. For example, if they want to wear a mismatched outfit, it's probably not worth arguing over.

Focus On the Benefits

Instead of focusing on the limitations or losses associated with aging, paint a positive picture of how accepting help can enhance their quality of life. Highlight the benefits of reduced stress, improved safety, and increased time for enjoyable activities.

Customize your approach based on your parent's interests and values. If they love spending time with family, emphasize how accepting help can free up more time for them to enjoy those relationships. If they're passionate about a hobby, explain how assistance with daily tasks can give them more energy and focus for their passions.

Let's say your mom is reluctant to hire a home health aide, fearing it will make her feel "old and useless." Instead of arguing, you shift the conversation to focus on the positive aspects. You tell her, "Mom, having an extra pair of hands around could mean more time for you to enjoy your garden. You won't have to worry about cleaning up the kitchen or running errands. Plus, you'll have someone to chat with during the day, which I know you've been missing lately." By emphasizing the benefits that matter most to her, you can help her see how accepting help can enhance her life.

Practical Tip: Create a list of specific benefits tailored to your parent's situation. For example, if they're resistant to hiring a home health aide, you could list benefits such as:

  • Relief from the burden of housework and errands
  • Assistance with personal care, like bathing and dressing
  • Companionship and social interaction
  • Transportation to appointments and activities
  • Peace of mind for both you and your parent

Stay Calm and Composed During Disagreements

When disagreements arise, it's easy to become frustrated or upset. Manage your emotions. Take a deep breath, count to ten, or step away for a moment if needed. Remember, losing your temper will only escalate the situation.

Choose your words carefully. Avoid accusatory or blaming language. Instead, use "I" statements to express your concerns and feelings. This can help de-escalate the situation and encourage a more productive conversation.

Practical Tip: If you're feeling overwhelmed, suggest taking a break from the conversation and revisiting it later when you're both calmer. You could say, "I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed right now. Let's take a break and come back to this later when we've both had a chance to cool down."

Practice Active Listening

Give your parent your full attention and listen to what they're saying, both verbally and non-verbally. Pay attention to their facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language.

Reflect back what you hear by repeating or paraphrasing what they've said to ensure you understand them correctly. This also shows them that you're genuinely listening and valuing their perspective.

Encourage them to share more about their thoughts and feelings by asking open-ended questions like, "Can you tell me more about that?" or "What are you most worried about?"

For example, if your mother complains that she's feeling lonely and bored at her assisted living community, you could ask her open-ended questions like, "What activities have you tried so far?" and "What are some things you used to enjoy doing that you might be able to do here?" By listening to her perspective, you gain valuable insights into her needs and desires, which can help you find solutions that resonate.

Practical Tip: Avoid interrupting or formulating your response while they're speaking. Focus on truly listening and understanding their message.

Treat Your Aging Parents Like Adults

When discussing the possibility of moving to a smaller home, you ask your parents for their input and preferences. You say, "What are your thoughts on downsizing? What kind of home would you feel most comfortable in?" By treating them as equal partners in the decision-making process, you respect your parents' autonomy and increase the likelihood that they'll be open to the change.

Remember, your parents are still adults with their own thoughts, feelings, and preferences. Avoid talking down to them or making decisions for them without their input.

Whenever possible, give them options and involve them in decision-making processes. This can help them feel empowered and respected.

Practical Tip: Use language that reflects their adulthood and independence. Avoid using pet names or infantilizing terms. Address them by their preferred names and use respectful language.

Find Supportive Resources

Are you spending late nights googling "How to deal with elderly parents?" Or struggling to cope with the challenges of caregiving? Don't hesitate to seek outside help. A professional, whether a therapist or a counselor, can provide support and guidance on managing stress, communicating effectively, and setting healthy boundaries.

Consider joining a support group. Connecting with other caregivers helping older people can be incredibly helpful. Support groups offer a safe space to share experiences, exchange advice, and receive emotional support.

Similarly, you could consult with a geriatric care manager. These professionals can assess your parent's needs, develop a care plan, and connect you with appropriate resources and services.

Practical Tip: Research local organizations that offer support groups, counseling services, or geriatric care management. Many communities have resources designed to help caregivers navigate the challenges of caring for aging parents.

Have a Plan for Respite Care

Caregiving can be physically and emotionally draining for many people. It's crucial to schedule regular breaks for yourself to rest, recharge, and avoid burnout.

Respite care can take many forms, such as hiring a home health aide for a few hours, enrolling your parent in adult daycare, or arranging for a short stay at an assisted living facility.

Practical Tip: Start by identifying the times of day or days of the week when you most need a break. Research respite care options in your area and discuss them with your parent. Finding the best fit may take some trial and error, but having a plan in place can make all the difference in your ability to provide sustainable care.


Considering these tips can help you approach the challenges of dealing with elderly parents who resist help with compassion, patience, and understanding.

It's a journey that requires open communication, mutual respect, and a willingness to adapt.

Every family is unique. There's no one-size-fits-all solution. But by focusing on building trust, fostering open communication, and seeking support when needed, you can navigate this complex terrain with grace and resilience.

It's important to remember that your goal is not to force your parents to do things your way but rather to find solutions that work for everyone involved. This may involve compromise, flexibility, and a willingness to let go of some control. Ultimately, the most important thing is to preserve your relationship with your parents while ensuring their safety and well-being.

While the journey of caring for aging parents can be challenging, it can also be deeply rewarding. By approaching it with love, empathy, and a commitment to understanding their perspective, you can strengthen your bond and create cherished memories that will last a lifetime. Remember, you're not alone in this journey. Reach out to family, friends, or support groups for guidance and encouragement. Together, you can navigate this challenging but meaningful chapter of life.


infographic tips for dealing with elderly parents