How To Cope With A Stubborn, Aging Parent
Watching your parents make bad decisions for their health can be upsetting. For many adult children, changing from care recipient to caregiver can be hard. Navigating this change is never easy. You'll need to keep your own emotions in check so that you can help your parents manage their physical and emotional needs.
These tips can help you manage conflict in a way that is supportive rather than bossy.
Patience and persistence really help to make conversations more productive. Don't go in expecting everything to be resolved in one chat. You will need to bring up your concerns to your parents a few times so stay patient. Hitting your parents with too much information in a single conversation can set off their fear of losing control. And if your loved one has dementia or cognitive impairment, they may be unable to take in too much information at once. It also helps to learn tips for communicating with the hearing impaired.
Pick your battles
Try not to push or nag. Giving ultimatums will only upset them, and yelling, arguing, slamming doors, and so on could really damage your relationship with them. Instead, make them feel in control by making them a part of every decision-making process. Validate their emotions and show them that you value their opinions.
Criticism and judgment can also make your parents feel defensive. Telling your parent that they don't know how to manage their own lives and health will only upset them. Instead, stick to “I” statements, such as, “I'm am concerned because you seem to be losing weight and I'm worried that you're not eating enough.”
Know that timing is everything
You can't have a productive conversation when everyone is feeling stressed out or exhausted. Make sure you choose to have tough conversations on days when you and your parents are feeling relaxed. Avoid these conversations when you feel stressed because your anxiety will only add to your parent's frustrations.
Your parents are probably aware that they are facing some new challenges thanks to age, so staying away from discussions about their future might seem like the safer option to them rather than admitting to reality. Instead, state your concerns calmly and with love and tenderness to help to reassure them that change will be alright.
Seek outside help for yourself
Being calm might not come naturally if you feel frightened, helpless, and frustrated yourself. If you feel this way, you need to put some of your caregiving energy into yourself and get some outside support, whether you see a counselor, or join a support group.
Spend more time with them
Try spending some more of your time with your parents, assuming that your relationship is not a source of conflict. As your parents get older, they will likely appreciate more attention from you. Your interactions might even become more relaxed if they know you are prioritizing your relationship instead of fitting them into your schedule.