Self-destructive, stubborn, selfish or stupid?

Self-destructive, stubborn, selfish or stupid?
Self-destructive, stubborn, selfish or stupid?

Self-destructive, stubborn, selfish or stupid?

Don’t we all know a friend or parent who fits the description of self-destructive, stubborn, selfish or stupid? What do you do? Love them or fight them? How can you help someone who refuses to believe there is a problem? You can’t make a parent be compliant with his or her doctor and you can’t force a senior to move into a higher level of care.

As seniors age, medical problems tend to increase. All sorts of progressive diseases can ravage a senior’s body and create havoc mentally and physically.

Uncooperative Parent?

My friend Grace’s dad has been defiant about his dialysis treatments for seven years. Dialysis is a medical procedure for people whose kidneys are failing. The treatment helps clean your blood and remove toxins from the body. If you refuse treatment you die a painful death.

Richard is supposed to have dialysis three times per week. His pattern of behavior is to refuse treatment till he is in crisis mode and has to be hospitalized. Then he feels good, skips a treatment, toxins build in his body, and he goes back into crisis mode again.

When Richard does not show up for his dialysis, they call his adult daughter who lives 45 minutes away. She used to drop everything including walking away from work to plead with her dad to accept treatment. Sometimes her waterworks of tears would be effective and other times he still refused treatment. Crisis calls every week for seven years is a long time. Anyone of us would be burned out. The police have called my friend and threatened her with elder abuse if she does not get her dad to comply with treatment. Seriously? This man has a right to refuse treatment, even with dementia. How can his daughter be held responsible for his lack of treatment?

  • The dad has refused to sign a Power of Attorney (POA).
  • The dad has refused to go in the ambulance when it has arrived on numerous occasions to take him to dialysis treatment.
  • The dad refused to move to assisted living on the doctor’s recommendation.
  • The dad refused to move to skilled nursing care on the doctor’s recommendation.
  • The doctor called adult protective services and they have done nothing.
  • The daughter asked adult protective services to make her the conservator of her dad and they said no.

This scenario has been going on for seven long years! My heart goes out to my friend. Do you think her dad is self-destructive, stubborn, selfish or stupid? Do you have any thoughts or advice?

Diane Masson’s new guide book for seniors, “Your Senior Housing Options,” will be will be coming soon to If you sign up for my weekly newsletter on the right side of this blog, you will be notified when my new book becomes available. Check out my new website: or please follow me on Facebook.

“Your Senior Housing Options,” is dedicated to my mother, whose stories are peppered throughout. Being her advocate for over ten years has taught me to be a better person. My mom has dementia, but I am truly blessed that she still calls me by name. Her smile and joy inspires me to see the positive side of life. It makes me want to reach out and help seniors and their families make better choices today so they can have more secure long-term care plans tomorrow.


  1. I think the dad is confused. People with dementia do not think clear with regard to the consequences if their actions. He would not understand what dialysis is and probably thinks they are tying to hurt him. At this point in life it’s the families responsibility to step in and do what is best for dad. This daughter sounds like she is trying to do this. What a difficult situation. Can you force someone to have dialysis?

    • Great questions! The dad did not have any dementia seven years ago, but he has some now. The tricky part of this question is they can’t seem to force the dad so they are trying to force the daughter to make the dad do dialysis. Threatening elder abuse on an adult daughter who has no power is crazy.

      • I don’t think the daughter can be held accountable if she has no healthcare POA and authorities threatening her with this should be ashamed for adding to the pain I’m sure she already feels. Depending on the father’s level of dementia at this point, he may still have the legal right to make his own decisions. If he understands the consequences of not taking his dialysis, then perhaps he would willingly agree to no treatment in his next crisis. I would think hospice could step in and help him through his final days comfortably.
        My father-in-law died 2 years ago after refusal of dialysis. He had been on dialysis for six years before being diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer with 1 month to live. He chose to discontinue dialysis at that point, hospice stepped in and he died peacefully 8 days after his final treatment. For him, and for us, it was quality over quantity. He spent his last days enjoying the foods he had not been able to eat for many, many years.

        • Thank you so much for sharing a personal story about your dad.

    • You can’t force someone to have dialysis. Even when an individual has been formally declared incompetent, it is still difficult. Everyone has “rights”, even wen those rights may not be in their best interest.

  2. Lorie Eber
    Personal Wellness Coach at Lorie Eber Wellness Coaching

    My attitude is that we are all allowed to make stupid decisions for ourselves at any age. I don’t think you can change people, and when you try they push back. It’s unfortunate that loved ones have to pick up the pieces. My Dad has vascular dementia because for several years he decided he did not need his blood pressure meds and stopped taking them. Very sad.

    • Very Sad. Any thoughts on how to safely be a POA for health for a divorced elderly parent who is not been truthful with children they want to provide healthcare. Maybe have a joint POA of health with an attorney?

  3. Clearly adult protective services has not done their job. As a social worker this is my suggestion:
    1. Get an appointment with an elder law attorney to assist you in petitioning probate court to become your father’s guardian.
    2. Your father’s physician can supply a letter regarding what has been going on with your father, his frequent readmissions, cognitive abilities etc for the court.
    3. You need to realize that your father needs you to take charge, don’t play the “child” anymore, be the adult. It sounds like he is unable to make decisions for himself.
    4. Consider also, that your dad may be done with dialysis and would prefer hospice care. Try to determine this and honor his wishes.

  4. I’m so sorry for the distress of your friend. While a POA can take care of some issues, it doesn’t give anyone the right to make decisions other than those specifically given. I would tell my friend to immediately contact a high quality elder attorney who has experience in dealing with a range of elder care issues. They can give both the legal rights and proper direction to take, as well as other remedies that may be available. They could also contact Guiding Lights to see if they might have some direct resources to assist your friend.