How To Help A Loved One Who Refuses Assisted Living

September 27, 2021

Whether it’s viewed as a rite of passage or simply something that happens naturally as we progress through life, gaining (and maintain) personal independence is something we all strive for at every age. And who can blame us? Personal independence extends so much farther than simply being less reliant on others. It boosts confidence and self-value. It instills a sense of accomplishment. It can even reduce stress and promote happiness. But something happens as we get older — and it can be a little hard to swallow.


For most of us, age comes inseparably tied to a greater propensity for aches and pains, decreased mobility, or even diminished cognitive capacities — all of which can lead to increased difficulty in managing daily aspects of life, thereby affecting the very independence we cherish so much. When this happens, it’s no surprise that so many of us are reluctant to accept assistance or even acknowledge the need for it. It’s a struggle that’s only compounded further when we witness the loss of personal independence in someone close to us.


So, how do you help someone you love accept assistance? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. However, following these seven strategies can certainly help relieve some of the stress and potential resentment that often comes with helping a loved one who refuses care.


Understand their motivations. Perhaps the first step in helping someone in need of assistance is to better understand why they are refusing it in the first place. Carefully identifying their feelings will not only lend understanding to the root causes of their behavior, but it will also lead to a more open discussion. Try asking them to list the things that concern them most. It may also help to ask yourself if their behavior is out of habit, depression, or simply a fear of losing independence. Once you have a better understanding of the root causes, you will be better able to find positive solutions.


Share your feelings. You have your love one’s best interests in mind, and this is worth reiterating to them. Rather than rattling off a list of reasons why they need care or why they need to listen, try expressing your own feelings about how it affects you. By openly communicating your worries, it will be easier for them to see how their decisions affect those around them. You might try saying something like: “I’m exhausted, and you don’t seem happy. I’m looking for a way to help both of us.” Or “I worry about you all the time and want to find a way for you to be safe and remain independent.”


Treat them like an adult. At times, it may feel like the behavior being demonstrated is more child-like than adult. But, when assisting someone who refuses help, it is crucial to acknowledge them as equals and treat them with respect. Infantilizing someone often leads to more frustration, obstinance and, potentially, estrangement. Remember, your goal is to help them receive the best care possible while reassuring them you are someone they can rely on.


Change your approach. People don’t always respond well to nagging, pressure, or even pointing out all their shortcomings. If what you’re doing isn’t working, it may be time to change tactics or, at the least, choose your battles wisely. Decide what issues are most important and focus on them. You might also try giving your loved one a sense of control by asking them to explore options with you or by highlighting the many ways they could benefit from receiving assistance in one way or another.


Enlist others. Let’s be real. Sometimes the messenger matters. No matter how much we may think our opinion counts to those close to us, there is often a difference when it comes from someone else. Additionally, by involving others there is an increase in importance that can make the message more compelling. Consider enlisting the support of people who instill trust and credibility, such as a religious leader, a family physician, other family members, etc. Just be sure that your collective approach conveys love and concern and not a sense of being forced or bullied.


Accept the situation. Regardless of your honest and thoughtful intentions, the simple reality is that your loved one is in control of their own life and care options — and with it the right to make decisions, even poor ones. As hard as it may be to accept this fact, doing so can help lower stress and preserve or even improve your relationship. As a secondary alternative, you might also consider backing off for a time. This can give your loved one a chance to think about things, evaluate their situation and, potentially, come to a decision independently.


Go easy on yourself. Sometimes the hardest part of a situation like this is knowing certain outcomes can be, or could have been, avoided. But, just as important as it is to accept the situation and respect one another’s choices, it is equally important to not beat yourself up if it doesn’t “go your way.” There isn’t always a lot we can do. So, give yourself a break and continue to be at the ready to jump in and help when and where needed. Simply paying attention and lending support is often the best help we can provide to ease someone’s mind during life-changing transitions.


Summit Vista Has a Customized Plan to Help Your Loved One Thrive

Summit Vista is Utah’s first Life Plan Community, and we’re dedicated to providing person-centered care with a customized plan for each resident. Whether you have a loved one who needs a helping hand in assisted living, 24/7 dementia care or rehabilitation services, we’re here to help them maintain an independent lifestyle and thrive. Contact our retirement counselors online or call 385-255-1105 to explore senior living options at Summit Vista.