senior adult and daughter handsYour elderly mother lives alone. Lately, you’ve noticed she seems to be having trouble: bills are piling up, her usually neat house is cluttered, and she forgets to pick up her prescriptions. You can see that she needs help, but every time you bring it up, she either changes the subject, offers a reason for the change, or states emphatically, “I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself!” How do you get care for someone who insists she doesn’t need it?

Step One: Make Her Feel Empowered

  • Nobody likes to feel helpless. Your loved one may worry that accepting elder care and help around the house may make her feel like she’s losing her independence. Empower her by letting her make the decisions as much as possible.
  • Make it seem like the idea is coming from her. Say, “It looks like you don’t have time to pick up your prescriptions. Have you thought about having someone do those kind of chores for you?”
  • Present options. Giving your loved one choices will help her feel in control. For example, she could hire a live-in caregiver, or someone to come by a few times a week to help with chores.


Step Two: Get to the Bottom of Her Concerns

  • If you understand why your loved one is resisting care, it will help you figure out the best way to proceed. Be respectful: don’t downplay any of her concerns, even if they seem insignificant to you.
  • If your loved one mentions that she’s afraid of losing her independence, say that a caregiver would be able to drive her around to visit friends and family, or that if she had someone to help with the chores, she’d have more time to socialize.
  • If she’s afraid of strangers coming into her home, go online with her to search for qualified, reputable caregiving services. Offer to meet potential caregivers with her and help with an in-person interview.
  • If she’s worried about the financial burden of a caregiver, find the estimated cost of the services she needs, and crunch the numbers together.


Step Three: Share Your Concerns

  • Your loved one may be resisting telling you why she doesn’t want elder care. One of the best ways to get her to open up is to share your own concerns.
  • Say, “I’m concerned about you, and if you had someone to help out, it would ease my mind.” Or try, “I love to visit you and help you out, but lately, I just don’t have enough hours in the day, and I’m feeling stressed.”
  • Sometimes, a person who is resistant to care for themselves will accept it if they see it will lessen the burden on their family and friends.


Step Four: Bring in the Reinforcements

  • If your loved one still won’t accept assistance, it may be that for whatever reason, she just won’t listen to your opinion. Is there someone else who can persuade her?
  • Look for someone she respects, such as a trusted friend, doctor, or clergy member. She might be more willing to accept advice from this person than from you.
  • Call a family meeting. Let others voice their concerns, and talk about her care options as a group.


Convincing someone that they need help can be tough. It may take  more than one discussion before your loved one comes around, so be patient. Continue to help her in any way you can in the meantime, and keep your relationship with her positive: the more she feels your trust and respect, the more likely she will be to try out your suggestions.

Have you had experiences with a reluctant loved one refusing care? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments.

  • Garry Lewis

    I know when my mother first started showing signs of dementia, we tried to talk her into someone coming to the house and helping her with shores, she threw a fit, said she didn’t need the help, and she didn’t want strangers coming into her home. Eventually she allowed it, but still wasn’t happy about it and could be come rude with the helper at times. eventually she had to be placed in a nursing home where she could recieve 24hr care, which we could not give her due to our jobs and the distance she lived from us, and being a farmers wife we worried about her being alone when dad had to tend to the cattle and other farm chores. She passed away two years ago from Alzheimers. I t was the hardest thing me and my siblings ever had to experiance, watching our mother decline more and more each passing week. It also tokk it’s toll on dad he ended up passing before her, largely due to lonelyness of not having her living with him any longer. His health eventually failed. Just a very sad period any all of our lives.