When Your Aging Parents Won’t Listen

Some people are more comfortable with heeding and accepting advice than others. Most people don’t like being told what to do, but it can be especially hard for parents to take advice from their children when those roles have been reversed their entire lives.  

Offering Advice to Elderly Loved Ones

Giving advice can be a very tricky undertaking, and one of the keys to doing it successfully is in the presentation. It can be frustrating to deal with situations in which aging parents aren’t listening to your advice about things you think they should do to keep healthy.

Exercising Sensitivity

Trying to avoid giving directions like “You need to do this, or you need to do that”. Barking out orders is not likely to achieve the results you are looking for. Taking a more gentle, sensitive approach is often much more effective. Try putting yourself in their shoes and think about how you might react if you were being told that can no longer engage in some of the activities you enjoy most. 

Picking Your Battles

When caring for a senior loved one, there are always those moments in which disagreements occur about the best course of action to take moving forward in the pursuit of better health. As a caregiver, it can be a real challenge to accept that the logical and straightforward information presented by medical professionals or research is being challenged by seniors who feel that they either can’t or don’t want to make the necessary changes in their lives for improved health.

While it is undoubtedly important to listen respectfully to seniors about the choices they want to make about their own lives, there are some situations in which you might want to push a little harder to make them hear you out. If you think it will truly improve their chances of living a happy and comfortable life, try to present the relevant information in an objective manner listing the positives of compliance and the negatives of refusing to even consider it.

Communication Tips to Avoid Resistance and Conflict

The following are some ideas of how to approach situations in which aging relatives aren’t initially willing to listen to your point of view about what might be best for their wellbeing.

Weighing Importance

Considering the grand scheme of things that have to be taken care of and tended to when caring for a senior loved one, there are big things and there are small things that don’t matter quite so much. Taking a little time to reflect on how much a particular issue actually matters can help provide some perspective about whether it is a battle worth pursuing. Issues that involve a serious matter of health or safety are definitely worth the effort, but something that seems small or inconsequential to the big picture might be worth letting slide for the time being.


No matter how well-informed you are on a particular topic and how much you feel your position is the right one, it is crucial to always remember that your parents are grown-ups who have the right to make choices for themselves, even if the choices they make feel incorrect in your eyes. Accepting that there are some things that you can’t change, no matter how much you want to, is necessary for your wellbeing and effectiveness as a caregiver.


When people are making choices or behaving in a way that makes no sense to us, it can be useful to take a step back and try to appreciate where they are coming from and what things we may have overlooked that are influencing their point of view. An unwillingness to listen or follow advice can be rooted in a variety of factors, whether it be fear, concern for losing independence, confusion, lack of understanding, or many other things. Instead of getting upset, it can be beneficial to think through all the potential barriers that may be in place. Adopting alternative view points can be very helpful in achieving understanding.

Keeping Perspective

For many seniors, it can be difficult to make lifestyle adjustments, but as soon as they realize how their choices or behaviours are impacting those they care about, they often become more willing to explore all the options. Without being manipulative, it can be useful to remind seniors that there are reasons outside of themselves to make the right choices. Whether it be for children, grandchildren, friends, or other important factors and people in their lives, seniors may be more motivated to care for themselves and their health if it means being able to be more present for others.

Practicing Self-Care

There are a lot of difficult aspects of caregiving, and not having a healthy outlet to express those issues can cause problems. Caregivers need a positive way to relieve stress and engage in self-expression. 

Having people in your life with whom you can express your frustration, and take part in enriching and fulfilling activities provides an excellent tension reliever. This can make a big difference in ensuring that anger doesn’t manifest in a harmful way.

Remaining Adaptable

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to dealing with difficult discussions, arguments, and moments in which seniors are unwilling to listen or follow advice. Every relationship is different, and sometimes there is nothing to be done, but it is always worth trying. Always remember to remain patient and respectful of others and to take good care of yourself throughout the process.

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