More and more adults these days are finding themselves providing care for their elderly parents, but at some point, you may find yourself getting into arguments with them over even the simplest things. Dealing with aging parents can be tricky, especially when they don’t want to consider your advice or opinions. This can be especially frustrating when their health and safety is on the line. Here’s how to approach tricky subjects delicately to ensure your message is being heard.
Take Their Perspective
When dealing with aging parents, it can be helpful to try and see things from their perspective. This will give you greater insight into the reasons behind their behaviors and attitudes. For example, if your mother, who has stumbled on the stairs multiple times, refuses to install a stairlift or move to a home without stairs, it could be that she is not yet willing to admit to herself that she is no longer as physically capable as she once was. While she ultimately knows she is having trouble, your constant reminders won’t make her feel any better.
Your parents might resist letting you upgrade their internet connection so they can video chat with their grandchildren. It could be that they are worried about not understanding how to work the technology, which could make them feel inferior or confused. By putting yourself in their shoes, you may be able to get a better sense of what is really going on with them. Of course, you might not necessarily agree with them, but you’ll be able to approach the discussion with greater understanding and compassion.
Treat Them Like Adults
Although they may not act like it sometimes, your parents are adults. Even if you are providing care for them around the clock, they are not your children, no matter how much it might seem that way at times. It is important to always deal with aging parents with respect so you can have mature conversations about any issues that arise. Remember, they are the ones who raised you, not the other way around!
No one likes to be talked down to or treated like a child, so if you approach a sensitive topic while treating your parents like children, they will undoubtedly resist. It is not up to you to make decisions for them, but you can talk to them like adults in an effort to persuade them toward your line of thinking. You’ll make a lot more headway with a rational, thought-out argument than you will with orders and directives.
Know What Is Truly Important
In dealing with aging parents, it is important to know when to fight and when to let things go. You won’t be able to win every argument, or even most of them, depending on how stubborn your parents truly are. Instead of driving yourself crazy with constant bickering and arguing with your parents, take some time to think about whether the argument is really necessary. In many cases, you’ll find that the subject isn’t really that important in the grand scheme of things.
For example, it might drive you nuts that your dad leaves the cap off the toothpaste tube every day, but it could be that the cap is difficult to remove with his arthritic fingers. Rather than wasting your time trying to get him to stop this behavior, it is much easier to just let it go. On the other hand, if your mom keeps forgetting to close the pool gate after a quick dip in the afternoon, that could pose a safety risk for your children. In this case, you should absolutely stay strong until she understands why closing the gate is so important.
The point here is to pick the battles that are most important. By letting the little things go, you’ll be able to focus on what really matters. Not only that, but you and your parents will be able to get along much better without the constant fighting. Then, when you do get into an argument with them, they’ll know that you are truly invested in the outcome and not just picking a fight out of frustration.
Invoke Their Kids or Grandkids
While your parents may not be willing to make changes in their lives for themselves, you may be able to convince them to do it for someone else. Most often, this will be their kids (you) or grandkids (your children). Try telling your parents how much their behavior concerns or worries you and how much peace of mind it would give you if they would make a change. This argument won’t work in all cases, though, so try to use it strategically so it doesn’t get overused.
Your kids can be great pawns to use in dealing with your aging parents as well. For example, if your parents seem to have gotten a bit lazy in their old age and are no longer cleaning up after themselves, you may not want your children spending time with them in their home. Simply telling them they need to tidy up may not have any effect, but it might if you tell them you are no longer comfortable sending your children into an unsanitary environment. If they love their grandchildren as much as most grandparents do, this is likely to knock some sense into them.
Encourage Them to Look to the Future
You can also use future events, like anniversaries and other special occasions, as motivation to change when dealing with aging parents. If their stubborn actions are putting their health and safety at risk, they might not be around anymore for a particular milestone. They likely won’t want to miss your 20th-anniversary celebration or your son’s high school graduation, so these events can be incredibly motivating for your parents.
While they may not be willing to make changes in their lives simply for their own sake, they may change their minds when they think about all the things they might miss. It may help to continue to remind them of upcoming occasions to keep them on track if they start to lose steam on their new lifestyle. It is important to keep them aware that they have a lot to look forward to if they care for themselves properly.
Know When to Let It Go
At the end of the day, your parents are adults and it is up to them to make their own decisions. While it can be incredibly frustrating when they don’t come around to seeing things your way, it is important to remember that it is ultimately their decision. As much as you might want to, you can’t make their decisions for them. At some point, you’ll just have to give up on trying to convince them to change and let them live their lives the way they choose.
Of course, if your parents suffer from Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, they may no longer be fully capable of making rational, sound decisions. If this is the case in your situation, you may want to look into becoming their Power of Attorney or taking some other form of legal action. This approach should only be used when absolutely necessary, though; invoking Power of Attorney simply because you disagree with your parents will likely only lead to more stress and resentment.
Cut Yourself Some Slack
In some cases, your parents may run into trouble after not following your advice, leaving you scrambling to pick up the pieces and get things back to normal. For example, your parents might ignore your pleas to install a security system, then come to you for financial help after a robbery. It is only natural for you to be frustrated in a scenario like this as you are likely thinking that this situation would never have happened if they had only listened to you.
However, beating yourself up over your failure to convince them to do what you wanted will only create more stress for yourself. It is easy to say how things could have been different when looking at them in hindsight, but there is nothing you can do to fix the problems of the past. The best you can do is to keep moving forward and trying to chip away at your parents’ unwanted behaviors. You can’t expect change to happen overnight, but over time, you will gradually see improvement.
Find a Way to Vent Your Feelings
Dealing with aging parents can be challenging and stressful, and you’ll need a way to let out any anger, frustration, and resentment that may be building up inside you. While your parents can be great at helping you deal with other problems, they won’t be able to help you when they themselves are the ones creating the problem in the first place. Instead, you’ll need to find other people to talk to about any issues you are having with your stubborn parents.
This is a good time to rely on your significant other, siblings, friends, therapist, or any other trusted adults. When discussing your troubles with family members, keep in mind that your parents are their family too. You don’t want what you are saying to sour their relationship with your parents, so try to keep the conversation as constructive as possible.
Similarly, when discussing family matters with your friends, try to respect your parents’ privacy as much as possible. Instead, keep the focus on you and your feelings. It is also a good idea to give your friends the chance to discuss any problems they are having as well. You don’t want the conversation to become so one-sided that they lose interest in your friendship. Your friends may be dealing with similar situations in dealing with their own aging parents, so the two of you may be able to help each other.
Know When It Is Time to Consider Alternative Care
In dealing with aging parents, it is admirable to want to provide care for them on your own. However, you may reach a point when you are no longer able to provide the level of care that they need and deserve. If your parents are no longer listening to your advice and are putting themselves in danger, it may be time to look into assisted living or other senior care options.
This is one of the most challenging subjects to broach with your elderly parents, but it is arguably one of the most important. Make sure they understand you are not trying to get rid of them or pawn them off on someone else, but rather that you are looking out for their safety and well-being. Present it to them in a way that keeps the focus on their needs and preferences, not your own.
Many seniors have negative impressions of assisted living communities, nursing homes, and other senior care facilities, which can make them feel as though you are shipping them off to live out the rest of their days in isolation. While this may have been true in the past, it is certainly not so today. Many senior care facilities are remarkably luxurious and comfortable, often seeming like fancy resorts. Taking your parents on a brief tour of a facility in your area can be enough to change their minds.
Park Terrace Senior Living Is Here to Help
When you and your parents are ready to consider independent or assisted living, Park Terrace Senior Living can be a great option. Our community is warm and welcoming, and all of our staff members are highly trained in working with seniors. We will be more than happy to show you around our beautiful community so you and your parents can see everything we have to offer. We’ll take the time to answer all of your questions about what it is like to live here so you can make an informed decision about your parents moving in with us. Reach out to our team today to learn more and schedule an appointment for a tour.