Do any of these statements sound familiar to you? “I want to keep my father in his own home, but it gets so hard when he resists everything I do.” Or, “I love my parents so much and owe them everything. I wish I could figure out how to get them to accept help.” Or, “My mother has short-term memory loss and needs stimulation during the day, but she refuses to try new activities.”

It’s common for older people to refuse regular activities they once enjoyed. They may refuse to visit with family or friends. They also may say no to care, whether it’s help with personal hygiene, going to the doctor, or getting help at home. As a caregiver, this can be frustrating. Cheryl Conley, MA, LSW, Social Services Director for MemoryLane Care Services, says that understanding why the person you’re caring for is resisting you can help you to adjust your approach with them.

So, why does this happen? Some of the reasons an older relative will push back against your suggestions include:

  • Feeling afraid or a loss of control
  • Feeling rushed, hurried or overwhelmed
  • Not understanding what’s expected of them
  • Feeling embarrassed or ashamed to ask for help
  • Feeling scared about doing a new activity

While you may feel like you run into a wall when you’re constantly met with resistance, there are some things you can do.

  1. Be understanding and comforting. Consider their feelings and listen to their concerns. Do your best to remain calm. “One tip is to encourage the person to make some small decisions. That will help them to feel like they have a little bit of control over the situation,” Conley said.
  2. Be respectful. It could be a strong sense of pride that will make someone refuse your help.
  3. Be prepared. To avoid rushing to get to an appointment or get something done on a schedule, make a plan ahead of time. As part of the plan:
    – Allow plenty of time for your family member or friend to get ready
    – Talk about what you’ll be doing or where you’ll be going and why
    – Break down what you’ll be doing into smaller steps
    – Consider the time of day. Will this activity happen when the person typically naps or watches a favorite program on TV?

To learn more about managing resistance from an older relative, join us for a free educational event, “How to Work With Your Relative’s Resistance,” on Thursday, March 23 at 6 p.m. The event will be held in the Yark Family Conference Room at MemoryLane Care Services, 2500 N. Reynolds Road in Toledo. You can also join online. Register now.

Download our Caregiver Tip Sheet on Resistance. (Source: Alzheimer’s Los Angeles)

If you have questions about a family member’s or friend’s resistance to care or help, call Cheryl Conley at 419-720-4940 or email