Growing older is hard. It often means more aches and pains, less mobility, and increased difficulty managing one’s own life. It’s no wonder that so many seniors are determined to remain independent. One survey found that about 90% of seniors hope to “age in place,” remaining in their current homes for at least the next 5-10 years. Yet about two thirds of seniors need help completing at least one daily task. It’s painful when your mind wants one thing and your body seems determined to push you in a different direction. This is why so many seniors who need assisted living refuse.
Here are six strategies that can help you when a senior parent refuses assisted living.
Change Your Approach
When what you’re doing isn’t working, it’s time to change tactics. Don’t just repeat the same speech over and over. Some strategies that may work include:
- Giving your loved one a sense of control. Don’t talk about how they “have to” do something. Instead, ask them to explore options with you.
- Expressing your concern and love rather than your frustration and fear.
- Highlighting the benefits of assisted living, such as more independence and easier socialization.
Consider also asking for feedback from people you trust. Ask them if you’re being too pushy, too controlling, or otherwise using an approach that’s doomed to failure. Then change your approach accordingly.
If you’ve tried gently approaching your loved one to no avail, consider backing off for a while. When a senior doesn’t want assisted living and feels badgered into it, it’s easy for them to feel that they’ve lost control over their life. So consider backing off for a few weeks. This can give your loved one time to think about things, evaluate their situation, and perhaps independently conclude that they need assisted living.
Present Your Feelings
If you have a good relationship with the senior in your life, they care about your feelings. Rather than telling them that they’re sick, talk about your own feelings. Some scripts to try include:
- “I want you to be happy, but helping you with daily tasks is making it hard for me to be a good parent to my children.”
- “I feel really exhausted, and you don’t seem very happy. I’m looking for a way to help us both.”
- “I worry so much about you because I love you so much. I want to find a way for you to remain independent, become more active, and always be safe.”
Don’t tell them they’re a burden or annoying. Don’t say they’re being selfish. The goal is to center your own anxieties and present assisted living as a solution.
Enlist Help From Others
Consider how you feel when your partner tells you your pants are unflattering compared to how it might feel coming from a dear friend. The messenger matters. Sometimes changing the messenger can make a world of difference. Moreover, by involving other people, you make the message more compelling and keep the family narrative consistent. Some people to enlist for support include:
- A leader your loved one trusts, such as a pastor.
- A trusted physician. Encourage the doctor to highlight the dangers of continuing to live alone.
- Another family member with whom your loved one has a good relationship. Does mom always listen to her favorite son? Do the grandkids have a lot of sway with dad? Ask them for help.
If your loved one still refuses, a family intervention might be helpful, but proceed with caution. The goal should be to convey concern—not make your loved one feel forced or bullied.
If your loved one continues to refuse senior living, they’re being unfair to you. They’re asking you to give up your own life, time with your family, or free time to take care of them. So consider drawing a hard line: if they don’t want assisted living, that’s fine. But you are not going to continue making this decision easy. Then stop offering support. It may seem cruel, but sometimes seniors just don’t realize they need help. Simply removing the support you offer can help your loved one appreciate what you've done and see that they really can’t do it on their own.
Get Legal Support
If your loved one absolutely refuses assisted living but is in danger, you may need to get outside support. An elder care lawyer can help you review your options, advise you about seeking guardianship, or even refer you to a geriatric social worker who can help. Your loved one may be angry and hurt. Yet this is better than a catastrophic injury that ruins their life—or a car accident that causes them to harm someone else.
Talking about senior living doesn’t have to be painful or difficult. If you’re ready to change the tone of the conversation and help your loved one get the support they need, check out our helpful tips for beginning the discussion.