How can I help my parents with dementia accept the care they need?

1 answer | Last updated: Dec 03, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My parents have been in an assisted living facility for 9 months. They both have dementia and are beginning not to be able to take care of their daily needs as well as they used to. They are very private people and absolutely refuse help from the caregivers at the facility. The facility recommended a sitter but that too was angrily refused. Both my parents have always had very dominant personalities. How do I get my parents with dementia accept the help they need? If I can't get them to comply, the facility is threatening to evict them. If they have to leave, there is still the problem of accepting help.

Expert Answers

Merrily Orsini, MSSW, was a pioneer in the business of providing geriatric care managed in-home care. She currently serves on the board of the National Association for Home Care and Hospice and is Chair of the Private Duty Homecare Association. She holds a master's degree in social work and is a nationally known writer and speaker on aging, elder issues, and in-home care.

The operative word in this question is "dementia." A person who suffers from dementia does not have the same reasoning capabilities that he or she once had. If your parents are suffering from dementia, they are not able to process information, or understand cause and effect. Refusing help is common for those who have dementia, and it only gets worse as the dementia progresses. That refusal eventually can manifest itself as refusing assistance in toileting or personal cleanliness.

The challenge here isn't getting your parents to accept the facility's demands; rather, the facility doesn't sound like a good fit for your parents. You need to find a housing solution that better meets their needs, such as a memory care community. I would also recommend reading about communication with people with dementia, as the techniques that work best are often counter-intuitive -- they're the direct opposite of those that are effective with a person who is cognizant.