As you get older, your relationship with your parents is likely to change. Sometimes, the parent-child dynamic even seems to become flipped. Nowadays, it is increasingly common for adult children to become responsible for caring for their aging parents. However, taking care of an older loved one can be a challenge. For instance, it can be hard to know how to deal with irrational elderly parents, especially if they are stubborn or difficult. Caring for older parents living with mental health issues and memory loss can also be overwhelming. Fortunately, there are some tips that you can follow to manage conflict more productively.
So, let’s discover 5 things you can do to make life with difficult elderly parents easier for everyone involved.
Any relationship needs boundaries, and parent-child dynamics are no different. Setting boundaries for family members can seem daunting at first, but making your intentions clear from the beginning is fundamental. It is no secret that being raised by a toxic parent can have a huge impact on your life. Moreover, when a parent has been abusive, the relationship between parent and child is likely to be strained.
With that being said, knowing when to say no is vital. If you are reluctant to become a primary carer for your parent, then it is not worth sacrificing your own mental health to do so.
How to make your boundaries clear:
If your elderly parent consistently makes demands that you are unable or unwilling to meet, set your limits as soon as possible. This might involve agreeing to a certain number of visits, sharing responsibility with other family members, or moving your parent into an independent living community for seniors or a nursing home. There are a few private care options depending on how much support your parent needs – an assisted living facility could be a good fit, or alternatively, you could arrange in-home care. And in case you are having trouble deciding which senior living facility might be best for your parents, you could consider contacting assisted living consulting services in your area for the required guidance.
Try to understand why your parent is behaving irrationally
It can be all too easy to reach your own conclusions about why your parent’s behavior seems to be spiraling out of control. However, listening is a crucial part of communicating with a difficult parent. Aging can be scary, and if your parent is living with mental health issues or memory problems, it is important to empathize and try to understand any concerns they might have.
Anxiety and depression have a huge impact on your parent’s mood as well as your own, so if you are troubled by thoughts like “My elderly mother is never happy” or “My elderly father refuses help”, getting to the root of any issues is imperative.
Start by evaluating your parent’s underlying cognitive condition
Although there is no cure for memory conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia, there are plenty of resources that can help both of you to communicate more effectively. If your parent has been diagnosed with a cognitive condition, speak to your parent’s care managers for further medical advice. Ensuring that your parent gets the right diagnosis or treatment is vital. Depending on their diagnosis, avoiding certain types of medication, making more time to relax, and identifying moments of delirium can also help a stubborn parent to feel more at ease.
Identify behavioral triggers
Is there a certain time of day or night when your parent’s behavior changes? Seemingly routine activities like eating, shopping, or trips to the doctors can overload your parent’s senses, so try to find solutions that put their mind at rest. For example, if your parent becomes frightened in the evenings, installing better lighting throughout their home could help.
Embrace emotional experiences
Where possible try to acknowledge the concerns of your parent. Their worries might seem irrational to you, but changes in brain chemistry resulting from age-related conditions can have a significant impact on perceptions of reality. Rather than trying to find logical explanations for their worries, respond with love. Even if your parent is struggling with memory loss, emotional experiences such as recalling a favorite story or sharing a hug are still effective at helping to relieve anxiety.
Speak to others caring for elderly relatives
During difficult times it is reassuring to know that other people are going through similar situations. Giving up your life to care for an elderly parent full time can be a daunting prospect and any negative reactions from loved ones can be disheartening. Be that as it may, speaking to another family caregiver – either online or in-person – and sharing your experiences can help you to find answers to common dilemmas. Apart from this crucial emotional support that can be provided, through speaking to others in a similar situation to you, you can also get useful advice and recommendations from them. An example could be if you were considering care services similar to Senior Companion Care Services in Palm Harbor, FL, or other at home care services in your local area, then it might be useful to speak to someone else to see if they have any experiences with similar services. Getting advice and opinions from equally interest parties can be really good for you when you are struggling to make decisions for a relative who you care for.
Always treat your parent as an adult
When caring for an elderly parent, you are more likely to get a positive response if you treat them like an adult. Even if your parent is being stubborn, it is important to remember that they have autonomy and you cannot make all of their decisions for them. Essentially this means acknowledging your parent’s wishes and treating them with respect.
Always avoid infantilizing your parent – your goal should be to help them get the best care possible, not to limit their freedoms. For instance, there is a good chance that what you are asking a stubborn parent to do is absolutely in their best interest. Asking your parent to eat more healthily, to walk with a cane, or to attend social groups might all be brilliant ideas, but your parent still has the right to choose how they live their life.
Consider counseling – for your own sake
Providing long-term care for an aging parent can take a toll on your wellbeing. Anxiety about the future, as well as the history of your parent-child relationship, can be heavy topics, but sharing your experiences in counseling can help you to offload.
Find new opportunities to spend time together
Life gets busy, and if you work full time, and have a family of your own, it is possible that your elderly parent might be feeling isolated. Show your parent that you are prioritizing your relationship instead of squeezing in visits at short notice. If you already provide home care, then a day trip could be a fantastic opportunity to get out of the house and bond with your parent. Avoid controversial topics like religion or politics that can lead to difficult conversations and focus on common ground and your immediate surroundings. If you’re too busy to spend enough time with your loved ones, try relocating them to a 55 and older community in Utah or somewhere near your home where they can spend their time conversing with like-minded people who are mostly their age. This might help them have a good time.
Don’t forget to encourage others to get involved too:
Siblings, close friends, and neighbors can all help by providing respite care and alternative perspectives.
Don’t ignore financial worries
Discussing money with your parents can be awkward. Nonetheless, when older adults start to excessively spend or hoard money, this can be a sign that they might be experiencing issues with their memory. The sooner you notice and address any financial issues the better, so do not be afraid to have a tough conversation if necessary.
Sometimes, seeing their spending habits in black and white is the wake-up call your parent needs to make a change. Senior care costs can be tricky to manage if a difficult parent refuses to contribute or chooses to spend their money on frivolous things instead. Acting quickly can therefore prevent any long-term financial damage.
Speak to a third party for advice about what to do next
Reaching out to a family law expert can help you put together a power of attorney for finances document. Similarly, if your parent has multiple assets, then a financial advisor can provide additional guidance.
When an elderly parent refuses help do not despair
Ultimately, if your parent’s behavior is getting worse or if they are putting their life or the lives of others at risk, it is only natural to be worried. Finding a compromise is all about balancing the needs of your aging parents with the advice of health experts.
Above all, try to have an open conversation with your parent to raise your concerns. Your parent is much more likely to respond positively if you approach the situation with love and understanding. Pay close attention to your body language and do not be disheartened if any issues are not addressed immediately. Only your parent has the power to make any changes, and sometimes even stubborn people need a sympathetic ear and a gentle nudge in the right direction.