Overcoming the "help hurdle": understanding why your Elders refuse to accept help and how you can overcome it.

You live in another country, but your elderly parents are back home in India living on their own. You worry about their health and safety. You want to hire help to handle everyday chores and just be around for support. After you set everything up, your parents flat-out refuse the help, insisting they can manage on their own. General frustration ensues.

This is A situation familiar to many people with older parents. Especially Indians abroad. The resistance to receiving help is called the ‘help hurdle’. It is really important to understand why your elderly parents are refusing help. Simply speaking, people who have been independent all their lives, your parents or Elders, find it hard to depend on others for help. It is a blow to their confidence.

Playing golf at 87 is one thing, but having to handle the hundreds of chores and medical needs is something else.

So how do you handle this conundrum? 

Ideally, the best way to overcome the “help hurdle” is to initiate conversations before health issues arise. This can help in planting the seed and preparing your parents for a time when help is needed. Here is how you can carry out these conversations. 

  1. Be understanding: Getting older is overwhelming, particularly as one feels the loss of health, energy and mobility. This can cause frustration, anger or moodiness in people feeling “less able” than they once were. It is important for adult children to empathise with their elderly parents and understand what their reservations are regarding additional help. Be patient and respect their views, but also stress the importance of planning for the future for when help might be needed. Reassure them of your support and the fact that they don’t have to manage everything by themselves.

Photo: Elder Care

  1. Evaluate what help is needed: Make an objective assessment of what help is actually needed, as opposed to what help you think might be needed. Also, be sure to ask your parents what they need help with as well as the degree to which help is required. Give them options to choose from – full-time care, part-time care, just a few hours a day or others. If there are tasks that your parents can do on their own, encourage them to continue to do so since it’s also important that older people stay as active and busy as possible. This ensures that they do not feel they are losing their independence in any major way. For example, do they need someone to do the grocery shopping for them or do they just want someone to accompany them while they do the shopping?

Photo: Elder Care

  1. Do a trial run: Once you’ve figured out where help is needed, don’t immediately hire help or pressure your parents to make a decision. It is important that your parents feel in control of what is happening in their own home so they later don’t feel resentful of the helpers, the service you have signed up for or of you. A trial run can allow reluctant parents to test the waters and experience the advantages of outside help without being forced to accept it. It will also help them decide what they would like to get out of such a service and tailor it to their wants accordingly.

  2. Get others involved: If your elderly parents are still reluctant to accept that they need help, it may be a good idea to get others to encourage them to at least give it a try. They may be more willing to talk to and listen to someone other than their children, such as a doctor, a nurse, other medical practitioners or even a lawyer. Hearing about experiences from their own friends and extended family could also give older people a little more confidence in terms of allowing a stranger into their home and lives.

  3. “Do it for me”: In many cases, older people don’t want to be seen as a burden on others and so refuse help. Tell your parents to accept care assistance for your sake, if not theirs. Gently explain to them that this would make your own life a little easier and that you don’t have to constantly worry about them or about not being with them. If they are concerned about the financial aspect, be open about how it will work and don’t dismiss offhand any offer they make to contribute. This may help them feel less guilty about troubling their busy children. It also means that they don’t have to admit they may need a bit of help!

While these are a few strategies to deal with the help hurdle, it is crucial to remember, even though you are coming from a point of great concern and love, that your parents are adults and must be treated as such. 

The most crucial thing remains to stay in constant touch with them regularly so that they don’t feel neglected.


At Elder Care, we can help you find a tailormade solution for your parents’ care assistance needs.

Team Elder Care

Elder Care supports parents of NRIs and members of Indian diaspora who are living back home in India in managing their independent living needs and at the times of medical emergencies.