When family doesn’t believe seniors need help

You might be frustrated by relatives who are in denial about your older adult’s declining health and increasing care needs.

Whether it’s about Alzheimer’s, dementia, fall risk, stroke recovery, or another health condition, their denial can make you feel angry, stressed, and frustrated.

We explain why someone might be in denial and share 3 techniques to help you convince family members that your older adult has a serious health condition and needs caregiving help.

Even if you can’t break through someone’s denial, you can at least move on and make decisions without their input, knowing that you did your best to help them understand.

Why would someone be in denial?

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Denial is a coping mechanism that gives you time to adjust to distressing situations.”

Asking someone to change how they see your older adult threatens their whole world. That’s usually why people fall back on denial.

It’s safe and comfortable to pretend that everything is fine and nothing is changing.

For some, denial is a subconscious way to ignore the fact that their parent or spouse is declining. For others, it’s a way to avoid taking on caregiving responsibilities.

3 ways to deal with family in denial

family in denial about seniors

1. Stay calm and be the bigger person

Family in denial about seniors needing help are incredibly frustrating. Even if you really don’t want to bite your tongue, it helps to stay calm and be the bigger person.

Do your best to be kind and understanding when speaking with someone in denial.

Showing anger or being sarcastic will only make them dig their heels in deeper or feel justified in resisting your reasoning.

2. Share educational information

Sometimes denial comes from not fully understanding the situation.

Share educational information that explains your older adult’s condition, typical symptoms, and the type of care they’ll most likely need.

For example, your brother may have no idea how Alzheimer’s or dementia affect people besides the stereotypical memory loss or confusion.

So, he takes mom’s side when she insists that she’s still perfectly capable of driving her car.

Rather than arguing, show him the doctor’s report stating that mom should no longer drive because of her advancing Alzheimer’s.

And, point him to trusted sources of information about Alzheimer’s and dementia – like Alzheimer’s Association or here on DailyCaring.

3. Meet together with an expert

Some family members may not believe you, but might listen to an impartial expert.

Offer to go together to talk with the doctor about your older adult’s health and care needs.

Or, ask an impartial person like a geriatric care manager, elder mediator, or spiritual leader to attend a family meeting and facilitate an open discussion.