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How to Talk to an Elderly Parent Who Refuses Assisted Living

The elderly may see a move to assisted living as giving up their independence. Learn what you can do if your elderly parent refuses to go to assisted living.

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What to Do if Your Elderly Parent Refuses Assisted Living

It’s one of the hardest moments in life:

Your elderly parents are starting to need more care and assistance with day-to-day tasks. They just can’t keep up with everything on their own anymore — and try as you might, you can’t keep up, either.

But every time you try to recommend making the transition into assisted living, it’s an immediate “no!”

It’s exhausting. Your parents insist that they are fine living independently, but you see the daily struggle. 

Now you and your elderly parents are stuck and feeling helpless, and you’re searching for what to do for an elderly parent refusing assisted living. 

Know that you don’t have to do this alone. We’re here to guide you through some of our top tips on moving forward after your parents have rejected the idea of assisted living.

Reasons Why Elderly Parents May Refuse Assisted Living

Think of the goals you’ve created for yourself over your lifetime. As you embark on a journey back in time, you likely haven’t run into a memory that involves you saying or thinking, 

“I can’t wait to grow old, become unable to do the things I used to, and have to move into an assisted living facility.” 

Whether the reason your elderly parents refuse assisted living is because of …  

  • The idea of losing their independence, possessions, or home 
  • Being afraid to be alone and worried about the change in their routine; or
  • They are afraid loved-ones will no longer stop by

… acknowledging these concerns as being legitimate, instead of dismissing them, is one of the best ways you can encourage your parents when it’s time to consider transitioning to assisted living.

If You Think Your Elderly Parent May Refuse Care When the Time Comes, Be Proactive

Maybe you haven’t even had the discussion with your parent(s) about moving into an assisted living community. But you know that one day, whether near or far away, the possibility of moving into assisted living may become a reality. 

Instead of waiting until a crisis occurs — falls, accidents, or cognitive declines, for example — start having conversations early about plans for the future.  

Some of the easiest ways to prepare for this is to encourage your parents to at least:

Start to consider transitioning to assisted living before a crisis occurs

9 Tips for How to Move Forward When an Elderly Parent Refuses Assisted Living

#1: Never ‘Spring’ a Move or Relocation 

Many seniors shy away from assisted living because the idea is brought on rapidly, with little time to prepare or consider what is best for their situation. 

When deciding on whether or not to move a parent into assisted living, remember that your elderly parent should be involved in the discussion and as much of the decision-making process as possible.

#2: Have Empathy

When an elderly parent refuses assisted living, one of the biggest things you can do to help the situation is to have empathy. Do you fear getting older and losing more and more of your independence? Most people do. 

Add in the idea of leaving your home, and you’re probably not feeling very confident or comfortable. 

Your elderly parents may not understand why they are suffering from bodily malfunctions — this can lead to anger, frustration, and even refusal to move to assisted living. 

While it can be a frustrating situation for everyone involved, try providing reassurance, staying calm, and putting yourself in your parents’ position to make the discussion and possible transition easier.

#3: Provide Options

When your elderly parent refuses assisted living, remind them that they do have options. 

Depending on your parents’ specific needs, they may find in-home care or an independent living community a more comfortable fit. 

If assisted living is the safest option for your parents, let them explore the different assisted living communities in your area. Ask: 

  • What days they would feel most comfortable visiting a community
  • What location they’d like to live in
  • What kinds of activities they prefer the community offer 

Providing your elderly parent with options promotes independence and freedom, and they are less likely to feel “forced” into moving.

#4: Highlight the Benefits of Assisted Living

Elderly parents refusing assisted living do so because of a very unappealing picture in their minds of the facilities. 

Cue the images of plain white walls, hospital-like halls that scream sterile environment, nurses passing out medicines. You get the picture.

For your parents, the idea of living in an assisted living community may make them feel as though they are “giving up” — but that’s far from the truth when they move into the right facility. 

A good assisted living facility will provide your parent(s) with:

  • Independence
  • Peace of mind
  • More time to enjoy their favorite activities 
  • Improved quality of life
  • Less stress over the things they are struggling to do independently
  • And more 

If your elderly parent is refusing to move into assisted living, remind them that the transition isn’t about taking away their independence, it’s to help encourage it.

Our goal at Senior Services of America assisted living communities is to put the safety and needs of our residents first, foster their independence, and improve their quality of life.

#5: Find ‘Teachable’ Moments

Your mom keeps pulling her back as she tries to move the couch to vacuum. The weeds are taking over the yard, but your dad just can’t push the lawnmower anymore. 

While your parents’ appetites may not have changed, cooking nutritious, delicious meals is becoming more and more of a challenge. 

On top of everything, no matter how often your kids visit, your parents still find themselves wishing they’d have more time with friends and family — but it’s tricky around work and school to visit more than a few times a month. 

If your elderly parent refuses assisted living, these challenging moments are the perfect opportunity for you to share how assisted living can help them

  • Overcome loneliness
  • Enjoy activities they love; and
  • Not worry about the everyday challenges they face around their house

#6: Consult a Neutral Third Party

Think back to when your parents told you some bad news or gave you feedback that you didn’t necessarily like. 

Now think of a time when a friend told you something you didn’t necessarily want to hear — like your outfit not being flattering or your first time hosting a family get-together being a bit of a mess. It likely hit differently when it came from your parent(s). 

The same thing goes for discussions of care options with an elderly parent refusing assisted living. 

Sometimes, the messenger makes all the difference. Involving a third party, like a … 

  • Physician
  • Another family member
  • Pastor; or even 
  • An assisted living director

… can help you create a more compelling message and make it easier to hear.

#7: Discuss How Your Life Is Being Affected — Without Making Your Parent Feel Guilty

Your parents are your parents — and they want what’s best for you. And while they may not like the idea of transitioning to assisted living, discussing how your life is being affected may help them see that it is a wise choice for everyone involved. 

This doesn’t mean you have to guilt-trip your elderly parent who refuses assisted living.

Instead, explain to them how caring for them — dishes, grocery shopping, cleaning, appointments, all the things that lead to burnout — has taken away from your one-on-one time with them that you enjoy. 

Remind your parents that transitioning to an assisted living community can provide your family with the quality time you desire and lower stress levels for everyone involved.

#8: Visit Friends Who Live in Assisted Living

If your parent is refusing to transition to assisted living due to false narratives they’ve created or fears of isolation or loneliness, consider taking them to visit a friend already in assisted living. 

The best time to visit is during active times, such as: 

  • Lunch/Dinner
  • Social events
  • Classes
  • Outings
  • Outdoor recreation times
  • Etc.

Experiencing the lifestyle that those in assisted living already get to partake in — without any pressure — allows them to “try before they buy.”

#9: Find an Interim Solution

Assisted living isn’t for everyone. When your elderly parent refuses to go to assisted living, listen to their concerns and work together to create a compromise to prolong their time in their own home. 

Consider solutions like:

  • In-home care
  • Housekeepers
  • Meal services like Meals on Wheels
  • Transportation services
  • Grocery delivery

Can an Elderly Person Be Forced Into Care?

So, what do you do when an elderly parent refuses assisted living but needs to get outside support? Is it possible for an elderly person to be forced into care? 

The answer isn’t black and white. While the safety of your elderly parent is your biggest concern, you also want to respect their wishes and help them maintain their dignity throughout the transition.

Consider reaching out to an elder care lawyer who can help you review what options you have, advise you, or refer you to other parties who may be able to help you — like social workers specializing in geriatrics.

Senior Services of America Can Provide Expert Advice for Reluctant Elderly Parents

If your elderly parent is refusing to move into assisted living or you’re struggling to communicate your concerns about them living alone, our community directors can help.

We understand the reluctance your parents may have, and we are here to provide as much support and advice as possible. 

We can help you approach the conversation gently — and long before a decision needs to be made. 

Find your nearest Senior Services of America community today to learn more about:

  • Approaching the conversation about transitioning to assisted living
  • How to deal with an elderly parent who is refusing assisted living; or 
  • Our communities, mission, and values