How to Deal with Aging Parents Who Refuse Help

How to Deal with Aging Parents Who Refuse Help - a middle-aged woman hugs her elderly mother from behind.

One of the questions we are often asked at PathFinder Law Group is how to deal with aging parents who refuse help. It’s a difficult question to answer, as every situation is different and “brings a host of challenges,” says Kim Acosta, A Place for Mom. However, estate and elder law planning is a great place to start.

What is Estate Planning?

In its simplest form, an estate plan designates how your wealth will be handled after passing away and how to assist you with medical and/financial decisions if you are incapacitated. However, the plan outlines so much more, including how you would like to be cared for as you grow older and the best tax options for your assets. An estate plan is the best way to ensure that all your wishes are met and your wealth is distributed at its fullest potential.

What is Elder Law Planning?

To a certain extent, aging adults have different legal needs than younger adults. Elder law is estate planning specifically for people who are above the age of 55 years old. Elder law combines elements of estate planning, long term care, asset protection,  adult guardianship (conservatorship), trusts, probate, assisted living and nursing home care, and much more. Essentially, elder law planning is for anyone who needs help with planning related to growing older. The goal is to develop a comprehensive plan that preserves assets while also taking into consideration required medical services and personal care for the individual’s health and wellbeing.

How to Deal with Aging Parents Who Refuse Help

“For families, elder care is often one of those difficult topics,” says Jeannette Franks, retired professor of ethics, grief, and gerontology. Afterall, no one wants to admit that they are growing older and may not be able to care for themselves in the same ways they’re used to. In fact, a study at Penn State University found that 77 percent of adult children believe their parents are stubborn when it comes to taking advice or asking for help with daily tasks. 

So, if you’re wondering how to deal with aging parents who refuse help, here are a few tips.

  • Come from a Place of Caring and Understanding:  “Learning how to tell an elderly parent they need help through incorporating their feelings can help you communicate with them better,” says Acosta. Explain to your parents how the current situation is affecting you. “If your parents aren’t willing to change their behavior for themselves, maybe they will for a loved one,” says Acosta. “Communicate your worries to your parent and explain how your anxieties will be tempered if he or she follows your advice.”
  • Treat Your Aging Parents Like Adults: “Avoid infantilizing your parents,” says Dr. Robert Kane. While it may seem that you and your parents have switched roles, it is still important to treat them like adults. “Dealing with a stubborn parent is not the same as dealing with a stubborn child. Older people should be autonomous.”
  • Identify and Understand Their Motives: Social worker Suzanne Modigliani recommends asking yourself a few key questions to better understand why your aging parents might be refusing help. “Identifying the root causes of your parents’ behavior can help you identify the best way to make positive changes.” says Acosta. Are they acting this way out of habit? Are they worried about losing their independence? Are they suffering from depression or anxiety? Are they confused or do they have dementia? What are some things they may be fearing?
  • Choose Your Battles: Instead of trying to make sweeping changes to your parent’s lifestyle, pick your battles. Decide what issues are most important and, at least initially, focus on them. “[Your parents are] much more likely to take your concerns seriously if you don’t bombard them with several at once, no matter how valid they may be,” advises Acosta.
  • Include Your Parents in the Planning Process: “Including your aging loved one in future plans may help motivate them to receive needed care,” says Acosta. You are more likely to get pushback if you try to make decisions for your parents without their input.
  • Accept That You Are Not in Control:  “[Your parents] are adults with the right to make decisions — even poor ones,” says Modigliani. While you may have your parent’s best interest at heart, it is important to understand that they are still in control of their own life.
  • Don’t Beat Yourself Up: Trying to navigate the changing dynamics between an adult child and aging parent is incredibly difficult. Cut yourself some slack and realize that this isn’t going to be easy. You’re doing the best that you can. It can also help to have an outlet to express your feelings (a friend, sibling, therapist, or online community).
  • Start Elder Care Planning Early: As the old saying goes, a stitch in time saves nine. So, start elder care planning early so that you have everything in place before you actually need it. This is why it is recommended that individuals begin to discuss elder law options when they turn 55 years of age, become disabled, or have a medical concern.

PathFinder Law Group Can Help!

If you’re wondering how to deal with aging parents who refuse help, PathFinder Law Group is here for you! We are an estate planning law firm in Towson, Maryland specializing in Elder Law Planning. Our team provides legal guidance that comes from the heart and our solutions are tailored to fit your individual needs. Our team can assist with all aspects of elder law and estate planning, including: Estate Planning Documents, Long-Term Planning, Retirement Planning, Assisted Living & Nursing Home Care, Asset Protection & Preservation, Guardianship, Last Will & Testament, Power of Attorney (to address financial control issues), Advance Medical Directive (to help with health care decisions), Medicaid & Medical Assistance, Trusts, and Probate.

To contact PathFinder Law Group about your Elder Law Planning needs, schedule a risk free consultation or, if you need immediate assistance, call us at 443-579-4529. We would be happy to assist you and answer your questions.


  1. Acosta, Kim. “What to Do When Elderly Parents Refuse Help.” A Place for Mom, 3 July 2021, 

About Adam Zimmerman

Adam Zimmerman is known for his unique ability to put people at ease. Within minutes of meeting Adam, his clients realize he is not the stereotypical attorney and is genuinely invested in helping them through their life situations. He is committed to empowering his clients to be decision makers in the process, so they are knowledgeable about the course of action they decide over their affairs.