<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=836105796546988&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

What to Do When an Elderly Parent Refuses Assisted Living


December 02, 2019

Senior Living, Assisted Living

BY Alex Lynn

When your elderly parent refuses assisted living or other elder care, it can be incredibly stressful for the rest of the family. We understand! Your parents or in-laws grew up in a different time. Consider what senior care was like back in the 1940s, or further back during the Great Depression. It was a terrifying time, and your senior parents were living in it. These were your parent's most impressionable and formative years.

Back then, "old folks homes" had a different reputation. They were a last-ditch effort for families who couldn't afford to care for their senior family members. So your family member may be terrified of assisted living.

With this article, we're going to delve into some other reasons elderly parents refuse assisted living, and we'll give you some proper coping mechanisms. Our goal is to help you see assisted living from their point of view so you can better communicate with them while you seek out the well-being of the older person. We can help you convince them to make the best choice for them, as individuals. We'll help your parents see assisted living in a more modern, healthy light.

Understand the Reasons Your Parent Refuses Assisted Living

Everyone is different, so we're reluctant to lump all our elders together as the same. But many seniors have similar concerns:

  • They are unwilling to leave a home they know. Transitioning from home care or independent living to an assisted living community be a difficult life change. Understand that their vision and abilities are less than they used to be. So the idea of living in a new environment is scary. They are also reluctant to leave behind meaningful possessions and items they value.
  • They like their routine. Your parent probably has a specific routine that they enjoy. They may have a hard time verbalizing it, but they have made social relationships with hairdressers, doctor's office staff, or other folks at places of worship, for instance. They are reluctant to leave those social relationships.
  • Seniors are afraid to lose their independence. A significant concern among the elderly is a loss of independence. According to Marketingcharts.com, it's one of the most common fears experienced by our elders, and often, the move from independent living to assisted living can feel like a loss of independence.
  • They are afraid to be alone. Seniors may fear losing connections with family. They may also be intimidated by the idea of living among a big group of strangers. 
  • Finances might be a challenge. Even if your loved one truly likes the idea of assisted living, they may be concerned about funding. The last thing our elderly parents want to do is become a financial burden on the kids!

Now that you've got some insight into the reasons your parents might be refusing assisted living, we'll delve into some ways to communicate with them to assuage their fears.

Treat Your Elderly Parents Like Adults

As we age, we lose our physical abilities and our independence. It can be a real ego smash to rely on others for help with daily tasks like dressing, grocery shopping, or driving to doctor appointments. 

As the child of an elderly parent, it can be all too easy to speak to them sharply, or as if they are a child. Their needs can pile up on us, particularly if you're a member of the sandwich generation, who is busy with a family at home, a career, and an aging parent in the house too. Often, it can take a toll on your well-being and overall quality of life due to the stress of the parent needs and children's needs.

Alzheimer's and dementia patients also place a unique challenge on their families. If you've "senior proofed" your home by removing area rugs, adding lighting, and putting away breakables, you know what we mean. We all want the best for our aging parents, but it can be hard to have the know-how and wherewithal to accomplish that in the typical home care situation. 

When you talk to your parents about assisted living options, be direct with them. Invite them over for dinner. Offer them a cup of coffee or tea, or an adult beverage (if their medications allow for the occasional drink). Speak to them directly about finances, workloads, and the reality of your life while coping with this much on your plate. 

  • It can be helpful if you have toured a facility already. You'll be knowledgeable about the activities and staff, and be able to speak honestly about the facility.  

We're not telling you to put your parents on a "guilt trip." Be loving and kind, but also completely honest about your struggles. List for them the ways assisted living might improve their lifestyle:

  • 24 / 7 access to trained medical care professionals equipped for specific health problems that might arise
  • quality food options so they won't need to prepare meals 
  • assistance with daily tasks like bathing
  • medication management
  • peers and activities they'll enjoy
  • opportunities for work or handicrafts 

But what if you've been down this road a few times already? Perhaps you've had these discussions with your parents before. 

Try Changing Your Approach

If a dinner table discussion isn't working out, try taking your parent on a tour of the assisted living community you're interested in. Point out, in person, how nice the furniture is, how clean the carpets are, how much fun other seniors are having in a craft room or physical activity center. 

Your parent might recognize some friends or feel better when they see other seniors enjoying themselves in a quality assisted living community.

Offer Some Options

Sometimes a parent might refuse an assisted living community for personal reasons. These reasons are unique to each individual, but they may not like the head physician, the exterior, or the paint on the walls. Your parent might not even be able to put into words why they don't like a place. They just don't like it! 

If you think this might be the case with your loved one, respect their opinion. Try offering them several brochures to review. Start with about three options (no need to overwhelm them) and ask them to pick one they'd like to visit in person. Tour that place, and start a discussion.

  • Ask them what they do or don't like about it.
  • Recognize your parent's needs, fears, or concerns. Make sure they feel involved in the choice.
  • Be realistic with them. Explain that assisted living is the right decision, and you want them to be happy and healthy.
  • Stay calm and positive. If your parent gets upset, even nasty about the situation, take the lead with a positive attitude and a quiet voice.
  • End the conversation by letting them know that you'll keep looking until you find the right place.

Take It Slow

Even if your aging parent approves of the idea, your relationship with them is the most important thing. We'd never want a family to "break up" over the choice to enter an assisted living community. Give them plenty of time to review brochures, tour facilities, and ask questions.

If your parent still refuses to choose an assisted living program, consider getting their doctor involved. No matter what happens, our parents still think of us as their (adult) children. They look at us and remember our early years. Sometimes the advice of a respected medical professional with some letters after their name will show them that you've been right about this all along. 

Here at Weatherly Inn, we offer different care options, which include independent senior living, assisted living, and memory care communities in Tacoma and Kent that provide an unrivaled lifestyle with exceptional care and comfort. We also offer both long-term care and short-term care options with full-time care staff devoted to helping provide the best care. If you'd like to learn more about our care options or learn how to open up the discussion with your parents, contact us today. 


Resources and Related Reading:

Strategies for When a Parent Refuses an Assisted Living Facility

Agingcare.com: How to Legally Force a Loved One to Move to a Senior Living Facility