Why Your Elderly Mom Doesn’t Care That You Want Her to Get Help

When you’re taking care of Mom it can feel like an uphill battle to get her the help she needs. Does it seem like Mom doesn’t care that you want her to get help? Why is your approach failing? And, what could you do differently to make sure Mom is safe and healthy? Here are a few things to keep in mind when facing this issue, along with some solutions you can try.

Taking Care of Mom Isn’t a Simple Role Reversal

It can be hard to see our parents needing help, but just imagine how hard it is for them to acknowledge needing help. You are the child, but now you’re taking care of Mom. A study done at Oregon State University found that the way we’re offering assistance makes our aging parents feel “old”. They equate this with negative traits like dependence, confusion and feebleness. 

Moms have usually held the roles of nurturer and caregiver. They may find it especially difficult to now be on the receiving end. Your Mom may have a lot of self-worth tied up in the role of family caregiver, household manager, etc. 

This may be why it can seem Mom doesn’t care when you want her to get help. She may really be struggling with this fundamental change. Mom may be in denial that anything has changed. This is also the reason why a third party can be invaluable in care discussions.

What’s Mom Really Saying?

When you’re taking care of Mom, you have to listen before anything else. We commonly don’t take the time to practice good listening and dig into what Mom truly means.

The TEMPO method stresses all the factors that should be in place for these conversations. TEMPO stands for Timing, Experience, Motivation, Place and Outcome. Families often have a big timing disconnect when taking care of Mom. You’re busy, caught between many responsibilities, worried about Mom. Therefore, you want to handle your concerns and get Mom help. She’s operating on a totally different pace. She needs time to adjust. This difference in timing and perspective creates a communication gap. To you, it feels like Mom doesn’t respect you or isn’t listening. Mom may be feeling the same way.

While you don’t always have the luxury of time if a crisis hits, you can take steps to prevent or better deal with future problems now. Be proactive by talking early and often and using our tips below.

Tips for Breaking Down the Communication Barrier When Taking Care of Mom

Different Approaches

Mom doesn’t care that you want her to get help, often for the reasons mentioned above. But, that doesn’t mean the situation is hopeless. And, it definitely doesn’t mean you can’t do anything but worry and then rush to help when a crisis happens.

Check out our experts’ Five Ways to Talk to Your Parents About Getting Help. Not every approach works in every case. You have to know your Mom and her personality and motivations. Make space to listen to what she’s telling you, and the more subtle messages hidden behind what she says.

If you’re struggling, consider talking to a care manager. You and Mom will benefit from having an experienced, expert and neutral third party as you navigate these conversations. Or, they can even be helpful in just consulting with you about your current concerns, frustrations and possible approaches. Sometimes they can suggest resources or tips to keep Mom safe that you didn’t consider. Maybe you’ve been pushing Mom to move to an ALF or join a particular program. The care manager might have other ideas you hadn’t even thought of that would be more acceptable to Mom.

Set up a consultation with a care manager.

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Maintaining a Good Relationship and Self Care

Take a look at our post, How to Maintain a Good Mother-Daughter Relationship When Taking Care of Mom. Two important points here are to prioritize and to set boundaries. Don’t fight Mom over little things. Determine what the top concerns are and tackle those. And, if Mom refuses to make changes or take any suggestions even when you’ve tried various approaches, you should be clear about what you can and cannot do. Our care managers offer some pointers on boundaries in our article Give Yourself Permission to Let Your Elderly Parents Make a Mistake.

Along with setting boundaries, you’d probably benefit from talking to someone outside your family. As mentioned above, it can help with solutions. But, it may also be necessary for you to deal with your emotions. Many adult children find they need support to set and maintain boundaries. In addition to talking to a professional, you might want to find a supportive community of caregivers. For example, our Caregivers Community on Facebook is such a place. It is open to any self-identified caregiver. Just answer a couple questions to join (to keep spammers out and ensure it’s a supportive community). If you’re taking care of Mom, you can post questions, ask for advice or just share when you’re struggling (or have a win).

Taking care of aging parents? Get more great tips: