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My mother is refusing to go into assisted living. How do we get her involved?

17 answers | Last updated: Nov 10, 2015
maryanne asked...

My mom, who has dementia, is refusing to go into assisted living against the doctor's and our decision. We have tried to get her involved. How do we get her there when she refuses assisted living?


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Beth Spencer is a social worker in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with more than 25 years of experience with families who have a member with...
47% helpful
Beth Spencer answered...

Moving a relative with memory loss can be a very delicate operation as you are finding out. When someone has flat out refused, as your mother has, it becomes even See also:
How do you keep from correcting someone who has dementia?
more difficult. Reasoning does not usually work and ordering someone to move doesn't work either. Several things to consider:

  • Is there anyone whom your mother might listen to - a sibling, minister, or friend who could help her understand the need for this?
  • Can you do it gradually, perhaps taking her several hours at a time and staying with her? You would gradually expand the time and use some of it to fix up her room, go to activities, etc.
  • Can you bargain with her? This might involve asking her to try it for 6 weeks and then you will discuss it. If you do this, though, you have to be prepared to take her back home if she remembers it at the end of 6 weeks and doesn't want to stay.

Does she have to move now? Perhaps you need to wait a little longer if you can.

Look at it from your mom's point of view. No one wants to be forced to move out of their home. She may not see the need, probably does not understand that she is at risk. Is there a way to help her remain at home but make her safer? Is there anything that might entice her to move, anyway to make it more attractive to her?

A colleague and I have written a manual for families on just this topic with much more detail, Moving a Relative with Memory Loss: A Family Caregiver’s Guide.


More Answers
ruthielaine answered...

I'm sorry but this answer isn't helpful to me. I am in the same situation and we have tried everything - she won't even leave the house to go for a visit. Now I'm battling cancer myself and the stress of taking care of her is I believe killing me. This weekend she tried to hit me with her can when I brought up the subject again. I need a real solution. I'm fighting for my life here.


25% helpful
Ebw610 answered...

I agree with ruthielaine response....I could have written it myself. Everything ruthielaine is saying I am going through. I have stage 4 breast cancer, my mother refuses to go assistant living.......and is making the last days of my life miserable. It is not an easy task.....The last resort is she being forced to leave her home by some organization that feels she will be a danger to herself, which I am trying to avoid...


46% helpful
keg runner answered...

I'm moving my mom into assissted living today - we have no choice but to blindside her - my brother is taking her to lunch while I move her furniture and belongings to the facility. She doesn't know it yet, but she will not be going home after lunch - the facility said if we just get her to the parking lot, they will take it from there - it's terribly sad and I hate doing it this way, but it is the only way it can be accomplished - the doctors are insisting she needs around the clock supervision - it is for her own safety. Know that we have been talking to her about this for some time - and now she gets violent if I mention it - she was in the hospital last week and her behavior was so far out that social workers got involved and now we really have to get her into the assissted living - I'm dreading this day, but she has left us with no choice but to blindside her - however; if she will allow it I plan on spending her first night with her and if she is too angry with me - we have arranged for her regular caregiver to stay the night (we had a daytime sitter for her). My only hope is that once she gets there and sees all the opportunites to socialize and play games she will calm down.


Numberonedaughter answered...

My husband and I are facing the same situation. My mom was released from her latest hospitalization to hospice with a projected 10 days to live. We brought her to our home and nursed her back physically to the point she will not be recertified for hospice. Her dementia, however, is worsening and she has fallen or been caught in mid fall daily for the last week. My husband has strained his back lifting her back up and we have told her he cannot help her up anymore. We are sending her to respite care at our chosen assisted living facility for several weeks; she thinks it's for walking therapy. She will have daily physical therapy to improve her balance and leg strength, hopefully. We are telling her that she cannot come home unless she can walk without falling, which we don't think she will be able to do. We are also hopeful she gets used to the place, makes some friends and decides to stay of her own free will.


sjdel answered...

It was the hardest day of my life. I picked Mom up from the adult mental hospital, took her to lunch, then had to hide as four attendants physically lifted her up and carried her upright into the assisted living center. She has mad enough to call me every bad word in the book and tried to hit me with her cane. She would not share a kind word and stated she never wanted to see me again. I was no longer her daughter. I had to remind myself this was her disease talking and not my Mom. The next day she met me with are you here to take me home as she did everyday for 3 weeks. But she was glad to see me and we had a good lunch at the center. I now have her back home and it was nice not to have the constant responsibility for the 3 weeks. She was safe and had three good meals a day. Other ladies were there her age that she could talk to and enjoy passing the day. Now it is just me and the dog. I love her with all my heart but she can not remember where her tooth brush is or how to fix food or drink. She is sad that I have to help bathe her like a child but happy I can. I set out her clothes like she used to for me when I was little. I am disabled so things go slow but we are making it for now. I also had to move her 94 miles north to be near my brother. It is just the two of us children in the family and I needed help after caring for her alone the last 6 years.


Junearline answered...

We have 90 year old parents living in the same home for the last 60+ years. No central heat or air, steps to get into the home and and also inside to the TV room that was added years ago. Dad wants to move to independent or assited living but mom won't go. We are letting them muddle through and helping best we can but I'm afraid it will soon get to the point where one of them can no longer walk or take a fall that breaks a hip or leg. We hate to see them this way but they are of surprisingly sound mind for their age. It's still their decision.


Letmbe answered...

Stop trying to make your family members do something they clearly don't want to do. If someone wants to be left alone to die in peace surrounded by things that comfort them, then let them. I've told my family that if they ever send me to a nursing home, I will make every attempt to break out and if I can't I'll starve myself to death just to escape and then haunt them for the rest of their lives. Leave the seniors alone. Realize you are trying to force a solution - not for their good, but for your OWN peace of mind - not theirs. Let go and let them live out the remainder of their lives the way they feel most comfortable.


100% helpful
Tammmy answered...

I think every situation is individual! We were not all meant to be care givers just as not everyone is meant to be a parent! If you are getting to a point that it is too much for you then the right thing to do is to have them go to Assisted Living if that is what they need to be safe! I would NEVER EVER make threats or say I would starve myself! SELFISH! We do not have children for the purpose of giving them the job to take care of us. We decided to have them not them deciding to have us! If they can and are willing to care...GREAT! If not...then get an apartment in Assisted Living and make the most of meeting new people and having new experiences! I can not believe how selfish people are to expect that their children give up their entire lives to nurse care them for years and years! If your parents can not make the decision or are too stubborn than it is sad but you have to do what you have to do! Stress kills and you have to protect yourself! Do what you can and visit them and love them....but it is not written that you have to change their diapers or lift them to love them! I will NEVER do this to my son! EVER! I love him too much!!!!!!


SZQ answered...

I don't understand people who are so self centered and think that life is all about themselves At 90 you have lived a full life. Do you want to be a burden to whatever family you have?? My husband works from 9 - 9 He is an only child and his mother expects him to spend his day off taking care of her needs. She has been to the hospital many times due to falling and in a rehab afterward. The Dr said she needs to be in assisted living or nursing care. She also has Alzheimer's or Dementia. What can we do? I cannot believe this issue is not being addressed


DogsBestFriend answered...

Tonight we brought our neighbor to assisted living. We are her POA and have had the help of her estranged daughter, but despite all the promises and reassurances from the staff at the facility we failed to even get her inside. This is the 3rd facility we have tried. She was furious and immediately walked out and sat in the car. We tried for three hours, but at that point the staff said they didn't want her because she would just end up walking out again. I'm so frustrated and lost on what to do....it's midnight now and she is back home with most of her personal belongings sitting at the assisted living facility. She does not take her medicine (forgets, takes wrong dosage, doesn't want to take it), she has never cooked for her self (always eats out), but no longer has a car to do so. We have had someone come by the house, which worked for a while but now she doesn't open the door. Her home is filled with mice poop, her toilet is constantly running. Depending on the day, she'll walk across the street to our house 5-6 times a day or call angry and mad with various demented things (someone stole her tv, she lost her keys, etc) We care deeply, but we are not professional care givers. We've turned to professionals and feel completely let down. It is a constant worry, a constant battle, and fearful of her ever changing personality. What do we do next?! She refuses home care and she refuses assistant living, but left alone she becomes agitated and angry.


SeaDoc answered...

I opted to let her decide her fate. My Mom is 97, strong-willed, falls daily, hearing deficits, but able to live alone in a 3 bedroom house. She is unwilling to add a walker, or an in-home aid to assist her with daily chores. I am the only son and my Dad has departed years ago - I am at the end of my rope and gave it all up and said 'it is your life' - You have chosen to ignore my help, so you are on your own... Sad, but I have no regrets.


100% helpful
lindyloot answered...

in some cases a "it's their life" approach makes sense. You have to remove yourself from the situation until (I assume) something happens where care is not optional? But in the case where a parent refuses help and lives in an apartment or townhouse or two family home leaves a stove on? or a cigarette burning? it's a matter of public safety no? Are there Adult service organizations that will intervene? I am worried because my step mother (who has no children and has alienated her family after decades of nastiness now has dementia and severe alcoholism. She is killing my dad! he seems too anxious to deal with idea of putting her in assisted living. It's easier to just get through the day. She is violent, angry, mean...If my father choses NOT to make the tough decisions and actions, that's his choice. I fully expect that he will die first. She can't drive or shop or cook or tend to finances or keep the home? I also worry that my sisters and I will have to do the "dirty work' my dad refuses to deal with now as she has no relatives who will step up? She has always been a horrible woman...hated us kids? I have told my dad (who responds 'let's hope she goes first') I will through him a wonderful wake and funeral, see him safely in the ground...and then fly several hundred miles to my home leaving her to her own devices. I assume she will jump in car w no license and drive 200 miles looking for a liquor store and eventually cops will pull her over? and some government adult protection will force her hands that we couldn't...and my dad refused to?


Figaro14 answered...

My sister and I spent over a year taking my mom around to (first) independent living and then AL facilities. She rejected all of them and insisted she was fine. She could no longer drive, cook for herself and she also refused the option of in-home care. It was extremely rough, but we finally picked an AL place ourselves that the best in the area, set it up without her knowledge and then just took her there. For one month we hired senior helpers to help her with the adjustment and listed to multiple screaming phone calls about how she was going to walk home, jump in the river, or just run away. And she adjusted. You would not allow a 3 year old to play in traffic because that's what they wanted. The same is true for someone suffering from dementia who can no longer make a logical choice for what is best for themselves. AL provides the care and companionship and socialization that no one can get in their home. Yes, its easier to leave them in their house, but I'm convinced its not better. BTW, it will take about 1 year for a total adjustment.


Exhausted Caregiver answered...

Let me be frank here. Unless you have been through the problem described in the original post you cannot possibly imagine what it is like to deal with a stubborn or unwilling parent. It is extremely irritating to hear people trot out platitudes and generic advice that you could get out of Reader's Digest or basic web searching although I understand people are trying to be helpful. It is particularly irritating when a doctor tells you these things. Their advice is generally worthless and they try to pawn you off onto social workers who are overworked to begin with. Doctors just want to get you out of the office as soon as possible. The medical system does not want to deal with these issues. So if you don't know about this from an experiential point of view then please don't start talking about what you don't know about - it's only insulting when you give basic advice that someone has probably heard like 50 times by the time you start talking. If you want to really help then do practical things like LISTEN or maybe buy your friend a much needed dinner or cup of coffee.

I'm fighting with my own Mother right now who refuses to go to assisted living when she desperately needs it. She is not with dementia - at least to as significant degree though she makes horrible decisions and continues to smoke and drink which led to a fall that in turn led to a 9 month stay in a nursing home. This has happened three times before (except her stays in a Nursing Home were much shorter previously). Despite medical advice she refuses to consider Assisted living and accuses me of attempting to rob her of her freedom. Her health worsens and she expects me to be there on a 24/7 basis to deal with her issues. There is some money for home health care but no where near what she needs to be safe. I did apply for assistance and that is forthcoming but my mother is impossible to deal with and unfortunately is very mean to the people who could help her the most. I hope I don't do to my children what my mother is doing to me. It is incredible how unrealistic she is being - not to mention how irresponsible by continuing to drink and smoke.


Sarahvil answered...

I found this Q & A helpful, from Marsha Kay Seff:

Q: My 95-year-old mother-in-law refuses to move to a safe and protective environment of assisted living. How do we get her placed when she is so stubborn? She also refuses help in the home. I need help as soon as possible. We have taken her to several places, but she still says no. A: Unless you have her declared incompetent (difficult and expensive), you can't force her to move. It sounds as if you could use some professional help. For free counseling agencies, check with your local area's Agency on Aging. Some mediation agencies help families for no cost. The truth is, sometimes you have to use some tough love: I love you, Mom, but I can no longer visit you when I'm so worried about you being unsafe alone in your home. And sometimes you need to go a step farther: Mom, I'm going to have to call Adult Protective Services or the district attorney, because you're unsafe in your house and need protection. Then, you could try fudging: Mom, if anything happens to you, I'm afraid I might be charged with neglect. The way I figure it, we all do what we have to do to keep our parents safe.

I hope you found this helpful. :-)