When a Parent With Dementia Refuses Help

Going through the motions of increased memory loss in dementia patients is a difficult situation and caring for a parent with dementia adds challenges that not everyone is equipped to provide proper care for.

What Can I do When my Family Member With Dementia Refuses Care?

First and foremost, it’s crucial to recognize that the refusal of care is a common symptom in dementia patients. This behavior is not a deliberate choice but rather a result of the cognitive challenges they face.

Try Phrasing Questions or Statements in a Different Way

Person with dementia refusing care and struggling with memory issues. Person refuses help from their doctor

When taking care of a parent with dementia, there are often situations that arise that require immediate solutions. The best course of action in this case is to show support and patience when making decisions with your loved one.

One example could be your parent refusing to get into the car with you. In this situation, it is best to stick with simple instructions and explain why they should get in the car with you. This way, you can better control the situation and avoid a conflict in which your loved one displays strong emotions.

Instead of saying, “You need to get in the car,” which is direct and may cause the person to feel uncomfortable, you could try saying, “Would you like to join me for a ride to (destination).”

When They Refuse Medications

Close relative with alzheimer's. Setting up parents care home doctor visits. How to help a person with dementia live their life independently.

If your parent refuses to take their medications, you may benefit from establishing a routine that includes a weekly medication box. It may be that your parent feels forced to take a medication, and in this case, automating certain tasks along with the time they should take the medication could help them accept taking it.

For example, if they need to take their medications in the morning, you can set up a calendar that is easily accessible to them as a daily reminder. Memory problems may be preventing them from living independently like they may be used to, so setting up visible reminders and maintaining a schedule can help them gain more independence.

If They Are In Denial About Their Dementia Diagnosis

Alzheimer's society to help person with dementia. Medical care fot demetia

Coping with a parent who is in denial about their diagnosis of dementia can be an emotionally challenging journey for both family members and the dementia patient. It’s essential to approach this situation with patience, empathy, and a deep understanding of the complex dynamics at play.

When a parent refuses to accept their memory problems and refuses care, the first few visits with them can be crucial. Begin by gently discussing their symptoms and memory loss, using simple explanations, and avoiding confrontations.

Offer solutions rather than pointing out their difficulties, emphasizing that receiving medical treatment and proper care can significantly improve their quality of life.

One effective strategy is to involve a trusted medical professional or caregiver in these discussions. Sometimes, hearing advice from a healthcare expert can help a dementia patient better understand the importance of accepting assistance and medications.

Additionally, it’s vital for family members to show strong emotions of love and support during these conversations, reassuring your parent that they are not alone in this journey. Building trust is a gradual process, so be patient and persistent in your efforts.

Encourage Your Parent to Keep Eating Food

Certain things to increase the quality of life for dementia patient. Example of loved one battling memory loss from alzheimer's.

It is common for a dementia patient to forget to eat or become less interested in eating food. Try encouraging them with a sweet meal or sweet flavors to keep them well-nourished. Snacks like diced fruits or pudding can help them be more motivated to eat.

When it is time for meals, do your best to eliminate distractions in the area you dine together. Helping your parent focus solely on the meal can be a great way for them to accept eating.

Refusing to Keep up With Hygiene

What is the answer to control behavior when patient refuses health care. Should you take car keys from dementia patient to protect loved one.

Caring for a parent diagnosed with dementia who refuses to maintain proper hygiene can be a delicate and challenging situation. When a loved one is showing signs of dementia and resists personal care routines, it can be distressing.

Understand that memory loss and difficulties with decision-making are common symptoms, which can lead to the refusal of certain tasks like hygiene. When discussing personal hygiene, approach your parent with empathy and patience. Use a calm and gentle tone, and avoid confrontations or criticism. Reassure them that you are there to support and help, not to force them into anything.

Create a consistent daily routine that includes specific times for personal care activities. Routine can provide a sense of comfort and predictability for someone with dementia.

Simplify Basic Tasks

Break down hygiene tasks into simple, step-by-step instructions. Use visual cues or verbal prompts to guide your parent through each step. For instance, you can lay out the necessary items for them to see.

Use familiar toiletries, towels, or clothing that your parent is comfortable with. Familiar items can reduce anxiety and make the process more acceptable to them.

Consider enlisting the assistance of professional caregivers who are trained in dementia care. They can provide the necessary support and help your parent maintain hygiene while minimizing potential conflicts.

Always respect your parent’s dignity and privacy. Ensure that they are as comfortable as possible during personal care routines and maintain their modesty.

Refusing Outside Caregivers

Dementia patient refuse care from doctor or loved one. What point should parents or loved one with alzheimer's get help.

Initiate a conversation with your parent about their concerns regarding outside caregivers. Listen actively and acknowledge their feelings and fears. Understanding their perspective is crucial to finding a solution.

If your parent is resistant to outside caregivers due to trust issues, consider involving them in the selection process. Allow them to meet potential caregivers and participate in the decision-making, helping them feel more comfortable with the idea.

Instead of introducing outside caregivers abruptly, start with a gradual approach. Have them visit for short periods to build familiarity and trust. Gradually increase the time spent together over days or weeks.

Finding the Best Schedule for Care

If your parent refuses full-time caregivers, consider using respite care services occasionally. Explain that these caregivers are there to give you a break and ensure you are well-rested and better able to care for them.

Maintain a consistent schedule for caregiver visits. Predictability can help reduce anxiety and resistance. Ensure that the same caregiver(s) visit regularly to establish a sense of continuity.

While it’s essential to ensure your parent’s safety and well-being, respect their autonomy as much as possible. If they still resist outside care after trying different approaches, consider modifying your caregiving routine while ensuring their safety.

Refusing Doctor Visits

The importance of a person with dementia keeping up with visits to maintain quaility of life.

A parent who has dementia and refuses to attend doctor visits and check-up appointments can be a challenging situation. However, it’s crucial to prioritize their health and well-being while approaching the matter with empathy and understanding.

Here are some strategies to navigate this situation effectively:

Open and Honest Communication

Start by having a gentle and open conversation with your parent about the importance of doctor visits. Use simple and clear language to explain why these appointments are necessary for their health. Reassure them that you’re looking out for their best interests.

Reduce Anxiety

Dementia patients may feel anxious about medical appointments. Try to alleviate their anxiety by providing details about the visit, such as what to expect, who will be there, and how long it will take. You can also bring comforting items or familiar objects to the appointment.

Timing Matters

Schedule appointments during the time of day when your parent is usually at their best. Avoid scheduling them during times when they are more likely to be agitated or fatigued.

Accompany Them

Offer to accompany your parent to the appointment. Your presence can provide emotional support and make them feel more secure. Be patient and understanding if they have moments of confusion or resistance.

Distraction and Rewards

Consider using distraction techniques or rewards to encourage their cooperation. You could promise a favorite treat or activity after the appointment or engage them in a comforting conversation.

Medical Team Collaboration

Work closely with your parent’s medical team. Inform the doctor about your parent’s resistance to visits and ask for their assistance in explaining the necessity of the appointments. Sometimes, hearing it from a trusted healthcare professional can make a difference.

In-Home Care

If your parent consistently refuses to leave home for doctor visits, explore the possibility of arranging in-home care. Some healthcare providers offer home-based services, which can be less disruptive and more comfortable for dementia patients.


Given the advancements in technology, telemedicine may be an option for certain medical check-ups. Consult with your parent’s doctor to see if some appointments can be conducted remotely via video calls.

Legal Considerations

If your parent’s refusal of medical care poses a significant risk to their health and safety, consult with an attorney specializing in elder law to explore legal options, such as guardianship, that can ensure they receive necessary medical attention.

Respect Autonomy

While it’s essential to prioritize their health, respect your parent’s autonomy as much as possible. If they continue to refuse appointments despite your efforts, consider seeking a second opinion from another healthcare provider to explore alternative treatment options.

Considering Different Options for Outside Care

When a person with dementia continues to refuse help, assuring their well-being can become extremely difficult. If your parent or loved one needs more assistance than you alone can provide, there are many resources you can turn to. Senior Placement Group specializes in providing personalized options for the person in your life struggling with dementia.

If you are unsure where to begin, check out our free needs assessment quiz to get started.

Our senior living advisors can help you navigate options for senior living and what your loved one specifically requires to maintain the best quality of life while moving to their new home. As a trusted resource with over 25 years of experience in connecting families with the right placement, rest assured that we can help you find the best fit for your parent. Call us at (561) 510-8367 to speak with one of our advisors and get started.


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