If you’re struggling with aging parents who refuse help, you’re not alone. According to a study by researchers at Penn State University, a whopping 77% of adult children believe their parents are stubborn when it comes to taking their advice or getting help with daily tasks. You may simply be suggesting options to improve your parents’ quality of life, but they time and time again turn you down. Whether it’s truly stubbornness or they simply don’t want to be a burden on others, there is still hope in getting them to listen. Here are recommended tips to help relieve resentment and anxiety that can accompany caring for aging parents and loved ones:
1. Try to understand the motivation behind their behavior
Aging is a difficult process for everyone. It is a process of letting go of independence you fought your whole life to get. Many are also living with dementia and other health issues, including anxiety and depression which contribute to confusing the process. Taking time to fully understand your loved one and their situation can help you communicate with them better. Autonomy is very important to aging parents and understanding some key factors about your loved ones’ behavior can help.
Are they acting this way out of habit? Have they always acted this way?
Are they acting this way simply to assert their independence? Do they feel you are trying to take their independence away?
Are they acting this way due to depression or anxiety or other mental health disorders?
Are they acting this way because they’re confused or have dementia?
Are they acting this way because of a health condition such as encephalopathy or a UTI?
Are they acting this way because they are scared or afraid?
Identifying the root cause or causes of your loved ones’ behavior can help you identify the best approach and way to make positive changes.
2. Accept the situation
While you might wish you could control your elderly parents for their own good, the reality is you can’t force them to do anything against their will unless their health is truly at stake. Your parents are adults with the right to make decisions even if the decisions may be poor ones. Accepting this fact, as hard as it is, can help lower your stress and even improve your relationship. Staying open and optimistic continues to keep the conversation open for help for the future.
3. Choose your battles
Your aging parents will not respond well to constant nagging whether it’s real or perceived. In the long run, it might help to stop insisting on nonessential tasks and stay focused on the big picture. Decide what issues are the most important and focus on them. Matters involving your parents’ safety, for instance, should take priority. Constant nagging about keeping the house spotless or having laundry always done only puts a damper on the relationship. They’re more likely to take your concerns seriously if you don’t bombard them with several at once, no matter how valid they may be.
4. Don’t beat yourself up
The hardest part is knowing something bad could possibly be diverted if your parents simply just listen and take your help. However, the choice is not yours to make. Sometimes you just have to stand by, watch closely, and be able to jump in when needed.
5. Treat your aging parents like adults
While it may feel as though you and your parents have switched roles, remember that they are still your parents and should be treated with respect as so. Dealing with stubborn parents is not the same as dealing with a stubborn child. When it comes to dealing with aging parents, remember that above all, the goal is to help them receive the best care possible. You’re more likely to get positive results by treating your aging parents like the adults that they are. This goes for simple tasks, such as helping them remember to take their medications, and for harder tasks, like helping them get treatment for diabetes.
6. Ask them to do it for the kids (or grandkids)
If your mom isn’t willing to change her behavior for herself, maybe she will for a loved one. If your loved one is smoking, they may decide to quit knowing second hand smoke could affect their grandkids. Another approach is to be direct about how it affects you. Communicate your worries in a sincere manner and explain your anxieties if the behavior continues.
7. Find an outlet for your feelings
It’s ok and, actually, it’s important to vent. Just don’t do it to your aging parents. Instead, confide in a friend, sibling, therapist, support group, etc. No matter how deeply you care about your mom and dad, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with frustration, fear and anxiety when constantly dealing with irrational behavior. Always remember self-care and find activities to help release negative emotions.
8. Plan ahead- and talk about those plans.
This is one of the most important things to do. Have them help make a plan for their lives for the future. For example, if this happens, then let’s do this. Talk about things frequently and share your plans and changing plans with each other.