Just last week the daughter of one of my clients sent me a note, saying “We are struggling with Mum’s short-term memory loss and her general resistance to external help. Is this typical in your experience?”

I have to say it IS very common to encounter seniors who are reluctant to accept help that is offered or to ask for help. But as I reflect on my experiences over the last few months, I’ve concluded that there can be many different reasons for this. Before you know how to respond to their reluctance, it is essential that you try to find out WHICH of the many reasons it may be for your loved one. Here is a list I’ve come up with so far:

a. Lack of self worth (“I’m not worthy of help” or “I don’t want to be a burden”)

b. Fear of further loss (“If I don’t keep doing this activity that I’m not doing well anymore, I will lose the ability to do it altogether”)

c. Expense (“I can’t afford to pay for help”)

d. Trust concerns (“Will I be taken advantage of? Can I trust them in my home?”)

e. Routines are upset/accepting a different way of doing things (“I don’t like the way others will do my laundry, housekeeping, cooking etc.”)

f. Denial (“I can still do it myself!”)

g. Pride (“I’m not going to admit I can’t do it”)

h. Guilt (“I guess I’m just lazy now…I should be doing more than I’m doing”)

i. Obligation/sense of duty to serve others (“I should be looking after YOU if you are in my home”)

j. Willing to ask for help, but not the help “best suited” for the situation (eg. calling an elderly friend to take them to the hospital vs. calling the ambulance)

k. Habit—(“I’ve always done it myself before”)

l. Past baggage associated with the words “asking for help” (parents who said “pull yourself up by your own boot straps, no free ride”, etc.)

If you have a senior in your life, I’d love to hear from you about what you have observed when it comes to why help is sometimes not welcomed!