When Care Recipients Resist Help

“I’m fine.”

“We don’t need additional help.”

“My kids can do it.”

“Nobody else can do this job.”


These are typical responses that caregivers hear when it’s clear that a little (or in some cases, a lot) of help would benefit all concerned, but the care recipient will have none of it.

Here are a few ideas and techniques that can break the stalemate – often without a big battle.


When caring for seniors, some adult children will insist that their parents begin doing things differently, or not at all. That tends not to go over very well as most people want to maintain their autonomy and independence. As a caring loved one, it helps to put yourself in the shoes of your parent. How would you feel if the kids were foisting unwanted help onto you?

It’s important to collaborate, as a team, to work together to find solutions. Start by understanding what the immediate concerns are. For example, if they are worried about going to the basement multiple times to do the laundry, ask them about their ideas as to how to make the task safer. Their stubbornness may really be a fear of losing control. Aim to find solutions that maintain a sense of purpose and independence.


When possible, do various tasks with them, as opposed to for them. Let them participate in the process of hiring the caregiver. One good opportunity for inclusion is with meal preparation. Perhaps the care recipient can select the menu or assist in the kitchen in some way. The idea is to avoid a total disruption of the day-to-day life routine.


Sometimes it’s simply a matter of trying another approach to gain acceptance. Some families find that by calling the caregiver an assistant put a new light on the situation. This renaming of the position restored control in the hands of the care recipient. The caregiver was not there to supercede, but merely there to “assist” the care recipient with those tasks that had to be done.  


Find as many people to echo your thoughts as possible. It helps to have figures of authority and influence, such as siblings, doctors and best friends, reinforce the idea that other solutions are required. Sometimes you just can’t ignore the entreaties of trusted people.


While it’s always better to be proactive, if you’ve tried everything, and the person you’re giving care so still says no, there may be little else you can do. Sometimes a crisis, like a trip to the emergency room will lessen the resistance to change once new realities come into sharper focus.


If the situation is becoming unsafe or untenable, you may have to do the right thing, even if it’s not the care receiver’s preferred option.