10 Tips for When Your Senior Mother Refuses Help
(when it’s obvious she needs it!)
Have you seen some changes in your mom that concern you? You’ve tried to offer help, but she refuses. We cannot force help on someone capable of making their own decisions. So what can you do?
1Listen and understand
Mom’s priorities might not be the same as yours. Perhaps maintaining her independence is a greater priority than staying safe. Or her idea of a retirement community is tainted by that of long-term care homes. Take time to listen and truly understand her perspective.
2Be clear with specific examples
Generalizations won’t help and are easily dismissed as non-applicable. Instead, be specific and kindly ask, “I’ve noticed you are wearing old clothes most of the time, is the washing machine giving trouble?” It’s non-threatening, specific, and can open up deeper reasons.
3Avoid infantilizing and ditch the ‘shoulds’
Even though parent-child roles are changing, your mom is to be treated as an adult. Be collaborative in your approach, where she feels empowered in the decision-making process. Turn “shoulds” into “here’s something to consider…”.
4Get buy-in on small things first
Start with getting “Yes” responses to small things. We all want to feel in control, and small “yes’s” help ready us for bigger ones. So starting with “Mom, let’s have someone do your garden this week” is more likely to meet a “yes” than, “You need to downsize into a smaller home.”
5Remain focused on the positives
Aging can be scary, and most fear the loss of independence as they enter this phase of life. Make a concerted effort to focus on what mom is capable of doing, her strengths and what she enjoys in life.
Have the hard conversations but wrap them in something like, “Mom, you have such a brilliant mind and you love cards, there are some ladies looking for a Bridge partner at the community centre. Want to be their fourth?”
6Set boundaries for your well-being
You have to keep yourself healthy through the process. Setting and keeping boundaries are integral to your well-being. You are not responsible for your mom’s decisions (assuming she is capable of making them on her own).
Have an outlet for your emotions. It can be frustrating, infuriating and heartbreaking, and you need a safe place to process all of it.
7Consider professional or outside support
Consider working with a Therapist who specializes in Geriatric counselling. Mom might not be interested, but it will help you better navigate this time.
Depending on mom’s health and safety, consider involving her family doctor, physiotherapist, or spiritual director. She might hear it better coming from them. (Obviously, handle this sensitively otherwise it could backfire.)
8Pro-actively inject people into her life
It’s easy for mom to become isolated and rely solely on you for her every need. Not only is this unhealthy for you both, but it will take a massive toll on your and your intimate relationships.
Occasionally add the right people to your mom’s life by including them in activities you usually do alone. “Mom, for lunch this Sunday, I’ve invited Dana to join us. She really needs some company right now. Is that ok with you?”
9“It’s not you, it’s me…”
Most parents don’t want to be a burden on their children, which is often part of their resistance to receiving help. Help spells a slippery slide to loss of independence and reliance on others. Instead of continuing to offer assistance, turn it around. Let mom know that you are worrying too much about her and that this is a burden to you.
10Uncover and correct misconceptions
It might be that what you consider irrational is a result of a misconception, and very rational to your mom. She might be vehemently resistant to an Assisted Living Residence because she synonymizes it with a long-term care home. I would also be strongly resistant! Uncover and correct misconceptions, and it will make things a lot easier.
Not every solution is “Mom needs to move”…
Depending on the type and degree of need, perhaps adding some accessibility features and support services are all that’s needed. Or perhaps she needs to downsize to a bungalow or move into a retirement residence that will give her the zest for life she’s missing.
If this article has resonated with you, take the 3-minute “What’s Best for Mom Quiz” to get a better indicator of the specific solutions that may be best for her.
Yes, this article is written by a retirement residence. But before you dismiss it as marketing, you need to know that we have made caring for seniors our life’s work.
We prioritize wellness above all else. There are seven elements of wellness that influence our experience of aging: spiritual, emotional, intellectual, physical, environmental, social, and vocational.
We have been recognized for our unique approach to aging. Programs are implemented that foster creativity, lifelong learning, friendships, and adventure so that each resident can live an active, fulfilling life.
These are meant to be some of the best years of our lives! And we are committed to facilitating that experience for our residents.
United Active Living is a privately-owned older adult retirement living community in Calgary, Alberta. We have three beautiful residences and offer retirement living lifestyles ranging from Independent Living to Assisted Living to Memory Care.
Here’s a cameo of our care options:
Independent living is an ideal option for people who want to maintain an independent lifestyle, with optional care services available should they be needed one day. The focus is on convenience and an active life. Learn more…
Assisted living is an ideal option for seniors who no longer want to, or are no longer able to, live alone but do not need intensive full-time medical care. We provide our residents with customized personal care plans that accommodate their unique health and wellness needs. Learn more…
Memory Care & Dementia
Living with dementia does not mean you have to stop being who you are. United Minds is an innovative program you won’t find anywhere else designed to provide a safe, nurturing environment where seniors with dementia and other cognition challenges can enjoy a positive life experience. Learn more…