Dealing with elderly resistance to care

Posted by Syifa Shodikin on

As a caregiver, it is in our best interest to care for our loved ones when they are in their old age. Often, the elderly may need more assistance as they face difficulties with their daily activities due to weak physical mobility and/or declining health conditions. However, despite our intentions to help the elderly, some or if not all of our actions may not be well-received by them. There are various reasons why they may reject our help. They may find it difficult to adjust to new changes, such as when they are moved to a new home and have to interact with new caregivers and residents. Or they may feel like they are a burden to the family members when they receive help. 

Eventually, this may hurt the feelings of caregivers or family members as they feel helpless when the elderly is resisting care. Caregivers may feel frustrated and worried as they want to help their loved ones get better. 

Causes of resistance

Dealing with loss

The elderly may be going through a difficult time dealing with loss. Loss can be in terms of losing their:

  • Mobility
  • Intellectual & Cognitive ability: Thinking, Memory & Judgement skills
  • Loved ones: Family members, Spouses & Friends
  • Independence

Difficulty adjusting to changes

When the elderly are brought to a new nursing home and have to meet new caregivers, they may find it hard to form trust. It takes a while for the awkwardness to fade away in the beginning and for the elderly to get used to a new arrangement. 

Perceiving help as a sign of weakness

Elderly may reject help because they see it as a sign that their physical independence has grown weaker and they are not prepared to face that reality. Or they may feel guilty of having to receive help from family members and as a result, they will resist any help in order not to burden the family. 

Mental health conditions

When their mental health has deteriorated, symptoms such as memory loss or conditions like dementia can add more confusion when they are receiving help. They might think that they are still capable of doing normal daily activities (e.g. walking) and feel confused when someone is assisting them. 

All in all, this can contribute to fear, anxiety, anger and guilt for both the care recipients and caregivers. In terms of anxiety, elderly may feel overwhelmed when they think they are receiving too much help while caregivers feel anxious when elderly is not getting the proper amount of care. Elderly feel guilty for receiving help while caregivers may feel bad that they are not doing enough when caring for their loved one. If you are a caregiver and are going through this stage, do take note that this is normal and there are ways to overcome this problem!

How to approach the elderly and inform them on the importance of care?

Get professional help

Seek information and advice from doctors, trained specialists such as caregivers and even counselling from nursing homes. 

Right time, right place, right conversation

Talk to them when they are feeling relaxed and there are no disruptions in the background that will agitate them. Make the conversation comfortable so they will listen and understand you.

 Cater to their preferences

If possible, ask them how they want their care to be done or who they want to receive help from. Most importantly, emphasize on the benefits of receiving help so they also know what they can gain from the care.

Simplify the process of care

Elderly may have preconceived notions when it comes to receiving care, especially when it involves huge arrangements such as being sent to nursing homes or hiring a new caregiver. They may find it difficult to understand so convey the information in simpler ways that they can comprehend.

Don’t give up!

If it does not work the first time, bring up the topic again at a later time. Ask for help from other family members to persuade the elderly to receive care.

The list is not exhaustive and there are more ways to inform them about the importance of care. However, it is easier said than done. In reality, some elderly may be stubborn and reluctant in changing their minds. When they actually do resist care, how do you go about managing them? The following information are ways you can avoid elderly’s resistance to care.

Strategies to manage resistance to care?


Make them experience care through test runs. Try different methods of care and weigh the benefit and cost of each care. Take a look at what is unnecessary or if extra help is needed. Allow them to choose which type of care they want.


Frame the process of care in a positive and fun way. Some elderly may interpret being sent to nursing homes as a bad sign, but if you can bring up the activities and friendships that they can make there, they may consider going.

Utilising eldercare products

Some of these products can make daily activities more easy for the elderly, especially if they want to be independent and do things on their own. For example, they may want to use the toilet on their own as they value their privacy. To facilitate them, install grab bars to prevent falls. 

It is normal if their resistance still persists. You might feel worried, hurt and unappreciated. However, do not feel discouraged if they continue to reject your care. 

For caregivers 

It is important for caregivers to learn how to cope with negative emotions so they would not blame themselves for not fulfilling their duty. 

Understand from their perspective

When they are dealing with loss, they can be emotionally distressed. They may need an outlet to vent their feelings, which is often towards the closest person (e.g. caregivers)*. Give them time to allow them to heal from their loss. 

*Keep in mind that their anger is not directed towards you but as a way for the elderly to express their frustrations that they are unable to do so through normal communication.

Assess their ability

Certain conditions make the elderly behave in such a way. For example,. dementia can contribute to delusions and paranoia.

Refrain from showing your anger or frustration in front of the elderly

It might aggravate the situation and the elderly will feel even more stressed regarding the topic of care.

Do not keep all the stress to yourself

Talk to a family member if you are unable to take the pressure of caregiving. Alternatively, there are also counselling services through organisations dealing with caregiving and support groups e.g AIC.




Share this post

← Older Post Newer Post →

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published.