As parents start aging, they can get obstinate in their ways which can make dealing with them pretty draining.
It doesn’t mean that the person who’s running short on patience is mean or uncaring.
Instead, it just goes to show that generation gap can get wider with time between aging parents and their adult children, which that causes a rift between them.
Age can lead to certain unavoidable habits. When aging parents are asked to change such inflexible ways, they tend to resist which is deemed as stubbornness.
However, that’s actually not stubbornness; it’s just their fear of losing their autonomy talking which appears to be cloaked in unwillingness to listen.
Parental stubbornness surfaces when kids start giving advice and try to offer unsolicited help.
It is not to say that aging parents don’t need help, but the way its offered can makes the actual difference. Nobody likes to be treated like they are not capable of taking care of themselves, especially parents.
All their life, they take care of the kids and when the roles are reversed it hurts their pride, which is understandable.
But an adult child’s patience can run out when their ‘stubborn’ parents refuse to accept help.
According to a study conducted by The Gerontological Society of America, 77% of adult children believe that their parents are stubborn and difficult to deal with.
If you are also exhausted trying to deal with your aging parents and you constantly blame yourself for lashing out at them every now and then, you must realize that you are not alone.
But there is always a way to navigate this risky terrain where you either hurt your parents or watch them make bad decisions.
Here are 10 tips for you on how to deal with aging parents.
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- 1 1. Pick your battles
- 2 2. Be persistent
- 3 3. Treat them with respect
- 4 4. Be sensitive
- 5 5. Consider their feelings
- 6 6. Don’t overlook the timing
- 7 7. Ask more questions
- 8 8. Come up with solutions together
- 9 9. Stay calm and seek help for yourself
- 10 10. Accept if you’re unable to convince them
- 11 How to persuade aging parents to use aids?
- 12 What can you do to encourage your aging parents?
- 13 How to emotionally cope with aging parents?
1. Pick your battles
It’s entirely possible that you feel the need to constantly offer help to your parents.
But that’s not right and it’s going to drive a wedge between the two of you. You need to pick your battles.
If you keep on giving unsolicited advice, your parents will start to ignore you and take offense to your offer. And you don’t want that.
You need to make sure that you advise them when they are in dire need of it. Once you offend or annoy your parents because of your apparently overbearing ways, there is no going back.
Then you will have to watch your parents make bad decisions in sheer agony.
Make it a point to only correct them or nag them if something they are doing is going to affect their health or safety.
Don’t pester them about being frugal with their money every time they think about buying something lavish. It’s their money after all. You don’t need to tell them what to and what not to do with it all the time.
2. Be persistent
Once you have decided on things you can’t compromise on, like the health of your aging parents, stay persistent.
Don’t get frustrated just after a little argument. Give them some time to process the entire situation before coming to a decision.
Don’t overwhelm them with information and how they need a certain aid immediately. Sit with them often and bring up the topic as much as you can.
]Don’t lose your temper, and be patient. Let your concern and love for them take over your body language. Hold their hand and show them that you care in order to convince them.
But let them take as much time as they need while you persistently bring up the issue every now and then.
3. Treat them with respect
Always remember to be respectful toward your parents. It’s the key to persuade them to do what you need. Leave the berating and lecturing to someone else.
Remember that they are not kids, even if they need to be taken care of like one. Think about the time when you were actually a kid and hated being lectured or admonished by them.
You don’t even have to think back, imagine how you would feel if the situation was the opposite and you were at the receiving end of a critical lecture.
Keep in mind that they are your parents after all, and they deserve to be treated with respect.
4. Be sensitive
Leave judgments and criticisms at the door.
If you tell your parents that they are not in the state to make the right decision for themselves, you are closing the door to negotiation yourself.
Start your sentences in a way that shows concern and genuine love for them. Tell them that you are concerned because you feel like their health is deteriorating and they should consult a doctor.
Offer to accompany them to the doctor if they are anxious or unable to go on their own.
Take this as an opportunity to bond with them like equals. Treat them how you would treat a friend. They shouldn’t feel like you’re doing this because they can’t take care of themselves.
Take them to the doctor’s office and then have coffee or lunch on your way back.
5. Consider their feelings
Being sensitive won’t get you anywhere if you are not considerate of their feelings.
f they are being unreasonably resistant, try to learn why that is. Could they be depressed?
Could they be lonely and afraid of losing their independence? Try to put yourself in their shoes and be empathetic instead of being sympathetic.
Assure them that you understand it’s scary but you are going to remain by their side every step of the way.
Remind them of the time when they taught you how to ride a bike and you were scared out of your mind but they held your hand throughout the entire process.
And then tell them you will also hold their way through every frightful process that might come their way.
6. Don’t overlook the timing
Timing is everything. If you mess up the timing, you run the risk of scaring your parents off.
Don’t talk about stressful things on days when they are anxious. The same idea goes for you too, don’t talk when you are nervous or have had a stressful day.
Pick a time when you both are in a good mood. Ideally, talk about serious stuff on the weekends.
First, spend some quality time them, relax a bit together, have long conversations about your shared interests, maybe have a drink together, and then talk about any serious matter that you wish to discuss.
7. Ask more questions
Instead of giving sweeping statements like you have to eat special meals, ask them what they want to eat. Listen to their side of the story.
If you believe that the time has come when they need someone to make them special meals, ask them why they don’t want that.
Sometimes, aging parents don’t like it when strangers are hired to do things for them. If you think your parents also belong in that category of people, then ask a friend or relative to do check in on them from time to time.
If you want your folks to eat healthier, make sure to cook those meals yourself or ask friends and family to pitch in.
Value their opinion. Always ask them how they feel about a certain arrangement. If you sense that they are not comfortable with, try to adjust it according to their liking.
If they are not blatantly expressing their uneasiness but you can recognize it, don’t make them say it, just do what needs to be done.
8. Come up with solutions together
Don’t just impose a solution or your parents or announce your verdict on a certain matter.
Keep them in the loop. Take their input seriously and chalk out a plan together. This way, your parents wouldn’t feel like they are being bossed around. They would feel like their say matters too.
It’s possible that they ask for unreasonable measures to be taken. If that happens, try to convince them by showing them concern.
However, don’t rush it. Maybe take an expert’s opinion to add weightage to your solution.
But don’t gloat in front of them, in any way, when the doctor or expert takes your side. You need to give them the reassurance that it’s not about who was right or who wasn’t, it’s only about their betterment.
9. Stay calm and seek help for yourself
To stop your patience from wearing out completely, seek help. Talk to an expert.
You can even join a support group where you can vent out your emotions in an understanding environment. It’s also a great way to know if your decisions regarding your parents are 100% correct or not.
People in your support group can also tell you if you are not being reasonable with your parents, or if you are being too harsh.
If you don’t let your emotions out, they can start to cloud your judgment. Don’t let that happen and get help for yourself.
Managing your own emotions will help you be a better caregiver and child to your aging parents.
10. Accept if you’re unable to convince them
Unless your parents have some kind of cognitive issue, they are entitled to make their own decisions. If you fail to sway them over to your side, don’t beat yourself up, nor resent them for it.
You tried your best, you were kind, you were considerate, you were nothing but respectful, and if they still chose to go against your advice then it’s okay.
Just be available if they need you later. But stop pestering them once you realize that it’s a lost battle.
Dealing with aging parents can get that much more challenging when aids get involved. Convincing a parent to start using an aiding device is like trying to defuse a bomb.
You never know if you’ll succeed or if the bomb would blow up. But just like there are ways to deal with them, there are ways to persuade them to use aids.
How to persuade aging parents to use aids?
There are many ways to do it. Let’s discuss the 5 best ways of convincing them to use aids.
Emphasis on independence using an aid can get them
Start the conversation by discussing how your father or mother feels about using an aid. Chances are that they would not be a fan.
But that’s okay. You can steer the conversation from that point towards the benefits of using an aid. One of which is the level of independence that it offers.
Take their opinion on that, once they seem partially convinced. Suggest if they think they should get one. Let them believe that they come up with the idea of using aid and you didn’t enforce it on them.
Talk about the alternatives
When you talk about the alternatives with your parents, be subtle otherwise you might sound belittling.
For instance, if you feel that your mom or dad needs a hearing aid, you can’t just blurt out that the alternative is that they keep on asking the other person to repeat what they said.
Be gentle and ask to discuss with your parents that you understand they might feel embarrasses asking people to keep repeating their sentences.
Hence, you think they should consider getting a hearing aid. And since there is no other alternative of using a hearing aid to improve impaired hearing, chances are they your father/mother would agree to consider it.
However, if they need a mobility aid then you can talk about assisted living as an alternative to a cane or a chairlift.
Let them choose
Don’t make them a silent spectator as you decide everything for them.
Involve them in the process. Let them choose the model for the aid they have agreed to use.
Get them brochures, advertisements, and catalogs to help them decide which model they want to have.
Consult an expert
If you think your parent is not fully convinced, seek professional advice.
Go to a doctor or expert to get a second opinion. Chances are that getting a prescription from an expert would fully convince them to get the needed aid.
Do a trial run
This is extremely important.
Let them get comfortable with the device before actually buying or renting it. If they are not comfortable with a particular design then try a different one until you find the right one.
It’s like taking a test drive when buying a car. Just like you need to get familiar with a car a bit before buying it, so does your parent when they are getting aid.
Aging can be depressing. An aging adult can feel a sense of loss over their life which can lead them to depression, loneliness, and anxiety.
This can make them withdraw themselves from social gatherings and stay isolated. If you start to feel like your mother or father has stopped socializing or contributing to conversations, it’s probably because they feel negative emotions including lowered self-esteem.
What you can do to bring them back to life is to encourage them to take part in discussions and get-togethers.
What can you do to encourage your aging parents?
- Spend time with them as much as you can. Have coffee with them and reminisce about your childhood. Encourage them to contribute to the conversation.
- When they are around talking about things that interest them. Give them the chance to participate.
- When you are at work, try to give them a call and ask them about their day. Encourage them to go for a walk.
- Arrange meetups for them with their friends so they don’t feel left out.
- Do activities with them. Play board games with them or any other kind of game that they would be interested in.
- If they used to like doing a certain thing, ask them to do it more now that they have some free time. Maybe they used to sing or play the piano, make sure you sit with them every weekend and ask them to sing or play for you.
- Give them certain responsibilities so they don’t feel useless. Ask them to do groceries sometimes. Give them the list of things that are needed and ask them to get them. Sometimes tag along to spend time with them
When parents age, it can take a toll on their as well as your emotional well-being. Learn how to deal with the emotional impact of aging parents.
How to emotionally cope with aging parents?
First of all, join a support group or register for therapy to keep your emotions in check.
Seeing your parents lose the strength they once had can be hard. This is why it’s important that you learn to manage your emotions first so that you can deal with their emotions.
- Hug them as much as you can. Keep reminding them that even if they are not as strong as they were once you still love them the same.
- Laugh with them. Watch comedy shows or movies together and laugh your heart out.
- Smile at them when you talk to them. Don’t get weird about it, don’t force a smile every time. But smile as much as you can when talking to them.
- Listen to them. Ask them about their life and listen to them. Show them that they matter and so does their input on things.
- Take them out to different places. Spend time with them and take them out to new restaurants or parks. You can even take foreign trips together if that’s something you both would like.
Dealing with aging parents is challenging but it’s doable without loud arguments and heated discussions.
Remember to take their feelings into account every time you start to lose your mind, and you’ll see that things will work out.