Caring for the elderly: Dealing with resistance

Caring for the elderly can be challenging — particularly if a loved one is resistant to care. Understand what's causing your loved one's resistance and how you can encourage cooperation.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

One of the toughest challenges you can face when caring for the elderly is resistance to care. How do you help a loved one who doesn't want or resists help? Understand why resistance to care might develop and strategies for fostering cooperation when caring for the elderly.

What causes resistance to care?

If your loved one is in need of care, he or she is likely dealing with loss — physical loss, mental loss, the loss of independence. Accepting care might mean relinquishing privacy and adjusting to new routines. As a result, your loved one might feel frightened and vulnerable, angry that he or she needs help or guilty about the idea of becoming a burden to family and friends.

In some cases, your loved one might be stubborn, have mental health concerns or simply think it's a sign of weakness to accept help. He or she might also be worried about the cost of certain types of care. Memory loss might also make it difficult for your loved to understand why he or she needs help.

What's the best way to approach a loved one about the need for care?

If you suspect that your loved one will be resistant to care — whether from family, other close contacts or a service — you might be hesitant to bring up the topic. To start communicating with your loved one about his or her need for care:

  • Determine what help is needed. Make an honest assessment of what kind of help your loved one needs and which services might work best.
  • Choose a time when you and your loved one are relaxed. This will make it easier for you and your loved one to listen to each other and speak your minds.
  • Ask about your loved one's preferences. Does your loved one have a preference about which family member or what type of service provides care? While you might not be able to meet all of your loved one's wishes, it's important to take them into consideration. If your loved one has trouble understanding you, simplify your explanations and the decisions you expect him or her to make.
  • Enlist the help of family members. Family and friends might be able to help you persuade your loved one to accept help.
  • Don't give up. If your loved one doesn't want to discuss the topic the first time you bring it up, try again later.
Apr. 14, 2014 See more In-depth