Find answers to some of the more frequently asked questions on the Forums.

Forums guidelines

Our guidelines keep the Forums a safe place for people to share and learn information.

Announcement Icon
You can win one of three $200 gift cards. Complete our survey by 5pm, 30 June 2024 AEST to enter the draw. Your response will be anonymous so you can't be identified.

How to help dad who won't help himself

Community Member

My father-in-law haa been retired now for just over 2 years. He has never had any hobbies but loves trains. Ever since he retired his health (mental and physical) has been on a steady decline. He has no friends and does not speak to anyone on his side of the family. All he does everyday is sleep and stay at home and follow my mother-in-law around everywhere. He does not really do anything around the house and has put on a lot of weight. He has heart issues and claims to have 'bad knees' so can't walk. We (the family) have tried to get him to try new things and get out of his comfort zone but to no avail. We encouraged him to join a men's shed or seniors club or to do voluntary work. He claims he has 'the best job in the world' but all he does is sleep! He is very negative and gets very defensive when we say anything at all. We believe he is denial about his health and in denial about lots of things actually. All of us are at our wits end trying to convince him that he is not living his best life and that he should be enjoying retirement not just sitting at home and sleeping everyday. Does anyone have any ideas/suggestions/recommendations on how to possibly help this man? He is just so obstinate and stubborn and extremely pessimistic. It just makes us all angry when we see him struggling to walk - he is so inactive that his legs look swollen and he stumbles every time he walks. The ironic thing is that when he was younger he was a diver (swimming). He will be turning 70 this October and we fear he may not live to see this day. I honestly believe that there is some underlying issue and/or reason for this behaviour which only he knows. Regardless, he has no purpose and no desire to make the most of his golden years. It is extremely frustrating. How do you help someone who is so unwilling to help themselves?!??!?

5 Replies 5

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion
Hi welcome

Ironically I have bad knees also and swelling caused by arthritis is controlled by medication. Yes it's hard to walk.

His passion of trains could be the key. If he has a garage then a train set expandable could enlighten him.

Social circles is not for everyone.

That's all I can recommend. You can't force him into action


Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hello Jezebelle, a warm welcome to the site and thanks for posting your comment, because like what Tony has said, unfortunately, and unwillingly I am in the same position as I need a walker to get around, but if he is negative and wants to sleep all day, then the problem maybe deeper than you realise.

If he was a diver years ago, chances are that trying to get him back to the pool is very unlikely, and I say this because he might have been a good swimmer back then, and getting back into the pool would upset him as he's not able to do what he used to do, even though it would be beneficial.

I agree his passion for trains would be a great idea, and you could keep an eye out for someone wanting to sell their collection on one of these sites, also to inspire him, ask him if he wants to travel on Puffing Billy, that may encourage him and a stimulus.

I wonder whether or not his doctor does house calls.

Best wishes.


Hi TonyWK and thanks for your reply. While I am not dismissing my father-in-law's knee pain, I certainly feel like he does not even try to help himself. My mum is in her 80s and has bad arthritis and pain due to a very severe fall 3 years ago but she still makes sure she moves and gets treatment (acupuncture and massage) to help with her pain. Hopefully the whole train idea will help bring some spark back to my dear father-in-law's life. We have to keep trying. Thanks again and best wishes.

Community Member
Hi Geoff and thanks for your warm welcome and reply. It is just so sad to see my father-in- law seemingly lose interest in life. It is dividing our family and honestly, some of the family have already given up. My hubby and I get frustrated but cannot give up on him. We will certainly try the train angle and see what happens. I actually considered Puffing Billy but we live in Brissie and he doesn't seem keen to go to Melbourne especially at the moment. Thanks again and best wishes.

Hello Jezebelle, it's lovely that you care so much for your father-in-law, and that you and your husband are trying to do your best to help him.

As someone who is retirement age though, can I suggest that you step back a bit and let him chug along and do his own thing for a while. For many people, the idea of a perfect retirement is to do nothing, absolutely nothing. After years and years of working, possibly with people you can stand and with a boss who is an idiot and doing a job that you don't particularly like, the one thing you're hanging out for is nothing. And two years for us, is an eye blink.

I also think it's worth giving him space (when he's ready himself) to find his own things he'd like to do. If either of my children suggested to me or my husband that we join a Mens Shed or a seniors club or something similar we would not be polite in response. I could think of nothing worse.

I hope I haven't offended, and I know you're worried and only have his best interests at heart, but it's his life to lead as he wishes.

Good luck