What to do if your elderly relative is refusing residential care

A daughter rests her hands on her elderly fathers shoulders while kissing him affectionately on the head. He's looking somewhere off camera with a sombre expression.

Transitioning a loved one into care can be challenging and emotional for both you and the elderly person you care for. Often the biggest difficulty that many families face is when their relatives refuse care. If you’re in this situation, it’s important to approach it with patience, sensitivity, and understanding. We’ve spoken with our own team of aged care professionals to help inform your decisions and offer tips to make the move as easy as possible – for everyone involved.


Before you offer any solutions, try to understand where the person you care for is coming from. They may be refusing care for a variety of reasons, including fear of losing their independence or worries over the cost of care. Listen to their concerns and work with them to address any issues they may have. You can help dispel their fears by providing information on the choice of care. Why not empower them by offering a selection of care providers and let them make the decision themselves?


Fear of the unknown is something that we can all relate to, so put their mind at ease by showcasing the services that the residential aged care home offers. Such as collecting leaflets, browsing the company’s website and arranging a visit to the residence. There you’ll be able to speak with the team and the carers and ask any questions that you may have. You may even have the opportunity to speak with current residents, to find out what residential life is like firsthand. For more information about the wide range of services that Mercy Community offers visit our website here.


Residential aged care homes come in all shapes and sizes and it’s essential that they align with the values and expectations of the person you care for – particularly if they are associated with a religious organisation. Do they follow the same beliefs? This can be comforting to a prospective tenant and help inform and ideally encourage their decision to make the move – safe in the knowledge that they will be surrounded by like-minded people with similar values. It’s worth noting that even if they are not of the same religious denomination as the facility, they will still be welcomed with open arms.

Who to speak to

Sometimes, it’s easier for aging relatives to listen to advice from outside sources. Consider seeking the help of a healthcare provider or social worker who can offer guidance and support for all parties involved. Having said that, the person you care for may be more open to speaking with a friend or relative that they have a stronger relationship with.

The view from our Stella Maris aged care facility in Cronulla.

Location, location, location

This is something that needs to be considered on two levels.

  1. Is the location of the home quiet, scenic and if they are more mobile, is it near shops and local points of interest?
  2. Is the home near you and other relatives or friends? The closer you are, the more likely you’ll be to visit. This can ease the transition, as it will be good for them to know that friends and family are nearby.

Don’t forget about you!

Caring for an elderly relative who is refusing care can be extremely stressful and emotionally challenging. It’s very common to be wracked with guilt when making this decision, so it’s crucial to seek support if you’re struggling. Whether that means working with a therapist, joining a caregiver support group or even taking time for self-care activities like exercise, meditation or a catch up with friends & family.

Respite Care

If the thought of any type of permanent care is still too daunting for either of you, then why not consider respite care? The relative or friend that you look after can experience residential care for as little or as long as they like, although after 63 days they will pay a higher premium per day. Even though this will be a chance for both of you to experience what full time care would be like, its main purpose is to offer you time to yourself. This can provide you with the space you need to come up with a permanent solution and consider a long-term plan. Find out more about respite care here.

Temporary residents will be treated with the same level of respect and quality of care as the permanent residents. They will have access to most services on offer, however, they won’t be eligible for the government run Allied Health programme, which provides services such as physical therapy and podiatry.

TIP: Decorate their new space with items from their home, surrounding them with familiar objects and photos. You can also plan your regular visits with them, to help alleviate any concerns about abandonment or disconnection. If at any point they want to return home, then their stay can be cancelled, and you can look for alternative arrangements.

Home care

You may find, even after your best efforts, that residential care just isn’t the right path to take and that maybe homecare (community care) could be a more viable option. Here they will retain all the benefits and familiarity of staying in their own home, while a professional carer ensures their comfort and wellbeing.  You can weigh the options of residential care or home care with our handy guide here.

In summary

Remember that the goal is to help the one you care for remain as safe and as healthy as possible, while also not forgetting to look after yourself. Guilt is a very common emotion when looking at care, even though it’s most likely for the best and sometimes the only course of action. Help ease your concerns by assessing your options and weighing the choices available. Whatever type of care you choose, you will need to apply for an evaluation from the Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT). While it can be difficult to navigate resistance to change, with patience, understanding and persistence, you can both find the perfect care that’s best suited to their lifestyle and needs.

If you have any further questions, you can speak with one of our dedicated team members via the Mercy Community website.

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