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What to Do if Your Elderly Parent Refuses Assisted Living

Attempting to move an elderly parent into an assisted living community is no easy task, even when the parent is willing to do so. Many times, however, parents can be resistant to the idea of transitioning into any type of living arrangement that takes them away from their family home, much less one that admits to needing more assistance with daily activities. You might even end up in a situation where your parent flat-out refuses to budge at all. 

This can be a terribly distressing time for both you and your parent. You don’t want to force them into living in a place they don’t want to, but you also can’t provide them the type of assistance they need on a day-by-day basis. Before you feel the walls close in, though, know that help is here. Take a deep breath, let it out, and read our guide on what to do when an older parent refuses assisted living. 

The Hard Sell Approach Never Works

When an elderly parent refuses to go into assisted living, they can be pretty intractable. In a situation like this, the harder you push them to move, the more they become convinced that they’re not going to let themselves go anywhere. With the prevailing thought among elderly parents being that getting shipped off to an assisted living setting is like being put out to pasture, who can blame them? 

That’s why it’s important to understand that “hard sell” tactics to convince your parent to move to a community for assisted living  is unlikely to succeed. Remember: your mother or father needs assisted living because he or she has lost something. Whether it’s the physical ability to maintain their home or themselves or the loss of their spouse, this loss is likely devastating, and refusing to change a living situation is often an avenue for them to manifest their frustrations. Coming in hot in a way that can be perceived as wanting to get rid of your parent or saying they’re too much of a burden is only going to exacerbate these feelings, resulting in likely immediate and ferocious pushback. 

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

If you’re not going to get anywhere by pushing your parent who is refusing assisted living, what’s a different approach? Consider taking it slow and steady, calmly and carefully demonstrating to your parent that this is a decision that they are involved in completely and not just one they’re being subjected to against their will. 

You can accomplish this by taking the time to hear what they’re saying about the idea of moving. This is likely to be a slow process – in many instances, you may have to back off and then bring it up again at a later date, especially if the idea makes your parent agitated. This helps reinforce with the parent that their adult kids aren’t trying to run their lives. 

This is perhaps the most important point when it comes to showing your parent the possibilities that moving into assisted living actually entails. By taking a softer, slower approach, you’re more likely to have your parent look at the idea as a choice or an option instead of an inevitability. Enlisting the help of a clergy member or trusted family doctor to reinforce your points may also help bring your parent around, if not to fully agreeing to move to assisted living, perhaps at least no longer dismissing the idea outright. 

A Parent-Driven Experience 

In most cases, the only way you’re going to get a parent who is refusing assisted living to even begin to consider it is by making sure they feel in control of the endeavor. Giving them agency in these decisions is of the utmost importance, as otherwise feelings of being railroaded, manipulated, and foisted off by their children will sour a parent’s view of moving out – not to mention your relationship! What you don’t want is for the parent to finally end up  where you wanted but to resent it and resent you for having it forced upon them.  

One good way to get them involved is to ask if they would like to tour some assisted living campuses. Make sure this is a no-strings-attached visit with no expectations short of simply showcasing the amenities of community so that some of the misconceptions your parent has can be laid to rest. 

Other excellent strategies for opening your parent up to the idea of living in an assisted living campus include showcasing how doing so can improve their quality of life. Such a community often enhances independence and enables them to not have to worry about paid caregivers in their home at all times but still get their needs met. This last argument often proves extremely effective with parents who value their privacy and don’t want caregivers underfoot at any given time. 

Other Points to Stress

There are worthy points about moving to an assisted living environment that you can also bring up to your parent. If they’re suffering from lack of social interaction, especially if they have lost loved ones and friends, assisted living communities are great ways to assuage that loneliness. Having people around to share things with once more, including during meals and other social activities, can do much to help. 

Additionally, it’s always a good idea to remind your parent that assisted living communities offer any number of ways to fill your parent’s needs. Whether it’s on-site medical care or physical therapy, meals, activities, or anything else, all of these opportunities are easily accessible without any muss or fuss. In other words, despite their fears or misconceptions, it is actually likely to improve their living situation and make them more happy and more engaged.  

Talking about Assisted Living

Parents never want to be a burden on their adult children. This means they might not ask for help when they need it and act determined to live their own independent lives, even when they might not be able to anymore. Taking a soft approach if your elderly parent is refusing assisted living may be just what they need to be convinced. 


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