How To Deal With Aging Parents Who Are In Denial


The aging process is inevitable, so the ideal outlook is to be proactive about creating a long term care plan.

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy when dealing with aging parents in denial and unwilling to speak about or address their increasing need for assistance.

Strategies For How To Deal With Aging Parents Who Are Resistant To Talk About The Future

This article is designed to facilitate your process as you work through your feelings, frustrations, boundaries, and intentions while providing high-quality resources you can turn to for support and assistance.

The bottom line is that unless you are a durable power of attorney or your parents have a dementia or Alzheimer’s diagnosis that allows you to establish guardianship, you may not be able to do much at all other than be patient, establish clear boundaries about what you are and are unable to do for your parents and stand by.

Ultimately, seniors are adults and have control regarding the help they accept – or not – as difficult as that can be for their loved ones.

Professional therapists or support groups give you insight

There are many parents who are unwilling to accept their increasing limitations, and unable to accept the fact that they are getting older. However, when dealing with aging parents in denial, they can easily co-opt their children or other relatives into enabling caregiving positions – and this is unhealthy for all parties involved.

Before you schedule a conversation or family intervention, it’s imperative that you become clear on what you are and are not willing to do in terms of caregiving for your parents.

It’s a slippery slope between “helping out once a week” to becoming the 100% go-to resource for aging parents. If you are not interested in the latter, then you will need to learn how to clearly and compassionately stand your ground.

Our post, Coping With Stress of Taking Care of Elderly Parents has more information on this topic.

The “good news” is that you are not alone. Professional therapists and support groups are tremendous support as you work through your personal, emotional landscape – as well as the practical realities of your schedule – assessing where your boundaries are when it comes to caregiving and how to deal with aging parents.

Use the segue of a peer’s experience to guide the way

If your parents are old enough to be in denial about their need for support or assistance with daily tasks or wellness checks, odds are at least one or more of their peers are experiencing the same. It may be injuries or health conditions requiring hospitalization, long-term rehabilitation or even the transfer into an assisted living or memory care facility.

These experiences create natural segues to guide your parents into a “Long Term Plan: Part 1,” conversation.

Express your genuine concern(s), worries and fears using personal statements:

  • “I really worry that I won’t know what you want or what to do if you fell and broke your hip/hit your head/were in a car accident/suffered a stroke/etc. like Friend XX did…”
  • “Since I’m working full time (have kids at home, live too far, etc.), I know I can’t be a part-time caregiver when the time comes you need help with meals, errands, etc. as Friend XX does. Can we explore the options now to see what’s available so that we can plan ahead?”
  • “As Friend XX’s children move her into a retirement home, I realize that I know absolutely nothing about your long-term care plan or financial situation and this worries me. I wouldn’t know where to start if something like that became necessary for you…”

While you are well aware the time for these changes is now, the intersection of a friend’s situation, and your reference to their “future” need, can ease the way as you begin to gather information about your parent’s potential needs for additional support, help or care.

Read, Financial Planning for Senior Parents, to learn more about the types of input, information and financial and legal matters worth establishing if your parents begin opening up to the idea.

Read your parents “The Signs”

There are very clear indicators and signs when seniors living at home need more help. These are outlined by reputable, elder-focused organizations around the nation – such as AARP and the National Institute on Aging.

Visit, 10 Signs Your Parents Need Assistance to Live At Home, and see if one or more of those apply, or seem imminent. Then send your parents a copy and ask to sit and review them together. There is a slight chance that this information – presented by objective experts – will resonate at some level, helping you to make some headway.

Don’t expect a miracle though; the information needs to sit and percolate for a bit as they come to terms with reality.

Ask to make their home safer and more accessible

The worst case scenarios typically occur when parents unwilling to discuss long-term care wishes and plans are suddenly injured, or experience major health setbacks. Then, decisions have to be fast-tracked by their children or immediate family members.

While acute health issues are nearly impossible to control or prevent, there are things you can do to avoid fall accidents that are likely to cause hip or head injuries.

Some of the easiest home modifications include:

  • Installing grab bars near the toilet, shower/bath areas
  • Ensuring motion-sensitive lighting is installed (and maintained) outdoors
  • Building a ramp as an alternative to the entryway steps or stairs
  • Reorganizing cupboards to keep frequently-used items as accessible as possible
  • An area to sit while working on dinner/meal prep and kitchen tasks
  • Slip-free flooring and securing (or removal) of trip hazards such as cords, area rugs, uneven thresholds, etc.

Reducing trip and fall hazards around the house prevents the injuries/accidents most likely to put you and your parents in a crisis scenario.

Support For Dealing With Aging Parents In Denial

If your parents’ position remains firm, and they are unwilling to address the issues, things are out of your hands. You have to treat your parents like the adults they are, hoping the seeds you’ve planted will sprout with a little more time.

Learn more about how to deal with aging parents in these articles:

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