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How to help an ageing parent who doesn’t want help

By Sabrina Rogers-Anderson

Many seniors initially refuse outside help, even when it’s clear they need it, because they’re afraid of losing their independence. Here are six tips to help you convince your parent or loved one to accept help that will improve their quality of life.

Have you tried to approach a parent or loved one about getting help around their home but have been rebuffed? Perhaps they answered “I don’t need help” or “I’m fine!”, but deep down you know they need some assistance.

Whether you’re one of the 2.65 million Australians who provide unpaid care and it’s becoming too much, or you’re not able to provide care to your parent and need outside help, it’s a conversation that needs to be addressed carefully.

The Feros Care team has a wealth of experience having these types of conversations with ageing loved ones and their families. Here are our top six tips to help you pull it off successfully.

1. Find the right time to talk

Choose a moment when they seem calm and you’re unlikely to be interrupted. Explain that you’d like to have a chat about the future so you can understand their wishes and that you’ll listen openly and respectfully to everything they have to say.

While the conversation may be tense or emotional at times, do your best to stay calm and listen to their point of view without interrupting them.

2. Ask questions

They may become defensive if you point out all the ways you feel they’ve changed and are unable to take care of themselves. A positive starting point is to ask them whether they’re finding some activities of daily living more difficult than they used to.

If they say everything is fine, you can gently point out some of your observations. You might say, “I noticed it seems more difficult for you to walk up the stairs now” or “This is a big house and cleaning it all by yourself is a big task.”

3. Avoid judgement

While any behavioural changes might seem obvious to you, your loved one might be in denial or having a hard time accepting they’re ageing. Using supportive and non-judgemental language will reduce the risk of them reacting negatively or shutting you out.

Instead of saying, “Mum, you can’t even cook meals for yourself anymore,” try, “I can see how much effort it is for you to cook now and I’d love to get you some help to make your life easier.”

4. Focus on how the situation is affecting you

Many parents and grandparents don’t want to be a burden on their children, so delicately explaining how the situation is affecting you may help them understand why they need to accept outside help.

You could say, “I’m worrying a lot about this and I’d feel a lot better if you had home care a couple of days a week” or “You know I’ll always be here to help you, but I’m finding it hard to juggle work, the kids and helping you, so I’d love to get some home care for you.”

5. Do your research beforehand

Having some information on hand about the different aged care options available will help everyone get a better understanding of the process. There are four different levels of government-funded Home Care Packages to help your parent stay in their home for longer. Another option is the government-subsidised Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP) that offers support to over 65s who only need a little extra help at home.

You can check eligibility for government funding by answering a few questions on the My Aged Care website. With wait times of three to six months for most government subsidies, it pays to apply before the need is urgent. If your loved one needs immediate care or doesn’t meet the eligibility requirements, private services are also available.

It might also help to explain that getting in-home care early on leads to better outcomes. When the need for assistance is left too long, a fall or other health event might occur that forces your parent to go straight into an aged care home. Early intervention may allow your loved one to live comfortably in their home for longer.

6. Enlist outside help

If your loved one is still resistant to getting help, it could be useful to enlist the help of a health or aged care professional. Their GP will be able to evaluate your parent’s changing needs and make recommendations. Hearing it from a health professional may convince your parent to accept help.

You can also contact the Feros Care team for advice and support before you begin the conversation. Our experienced and caring team will explain all the available aged care options in easy-to-understand terms. We can guide your family every step of the way to make the process as smooth and stress-free as possible.

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