10 Tips for Dealing With a Difficult Aging Parent

by | Nov 20, 2023 | Behaviors, Seniors

One day, you suddenly realize you’re an adult and you finally feel like you’re on equal terms with your parent. Then before you know it, your parent has gotten older and you find your position flipped – you’re the one taking care of them. This change in roles can be discomfiting. It can also be frustrating, especially when you only want what’s best for your parent.

Common Issues You Might Experience With a Difficult Aging Parent

Everyone’s relationship with their parent is different, but there are some common issues many adult children face when dealing with an aging parent:

Related: 5 Signs Your Aging Parent Needs Assisted Living

10 Ways To Handle a Difficult Aging Parent

1. Treat Your Parent Like an Adult, Not a Child

If you’re experiencing a conflict with an aging parent, the first thing to remember is to treat your parent like the adult that they are. This change in your role from the cared-for to the caregiver can be very emotional, not just for you, but for your parent as well. Consider their dignity and always treat them like an independent person.

2. Be Calm, but Resolute

When you’re having a discussion with your parent, make sure that it doesn’t turn into an argument. It can be hard to remain calm when you’re talking about a serious or oft-repeated topic, but staying calm and rational whenever possible is key to making your point – while preserving your relationship.

Amy McLoughlin, a learning and development specialist at A Place for Mom who has over 15 years of experience in the senior living industry, suggests to “Communicate without emotion and try to catch them on a good day.”

Related: Assisted Living for Couples

3. Pick Your Battles

The age-old advice to “pick your battles” definitely applies here. When dealing with a difficult aging parent, stay focused on what’s important. For example, if you’re frustrated that your parent isn’t taking care of their hygiene, there might be a bigger problem – like their refusing to accept help – that you can focus on. 

In this example, maybe they were too embarrassed to ask you for help with hygiene. Convincing them that they could benefit from some in-home help a few days a week might solve both problems.

4. Make an Effort To Understand Your Parent’s Point of View

It can be frustrating when your parent relentlessly tries to get their way, especially if you know they’re making a bad decision. But it helps to try to understand their point of view. How would you feel if your child, who you raised and cared for in every way, was suddenly telling you what to do?

What if you’d been making your own decisions for 50 or more years and someone was telling you that you’re no longer capable of making those decisions? You might have the best intentions, but that’s what it feels like to an aging parent who’s suddenly being lectured about their life choices.

5. Implement Clear Boundaries

Sometimes the problem is the opposite – the parent is making decisions or giving unwanted advice about their adult child’s life. Maybe your parent has always been like this or maybe as their life has changed, from something like the death of a spouse, they’ve become more involved in your life.

Either way, the key to keeping your parent from encroaching on your life is to implement clear boundaries. Let your parent know what is and what isn’t acceptable behavior – and that you’ll have to act if those boundaries are violated.

6. Accept the Things You Can’t Control

It’s normal to worry about an aging parent, but you have to remember that you only have so much control. Accepting those things you have no control over is rarely easy, but it’s the most surefire path to feeling unburdened. If your parent is having financial problems and you can only do so much to help, well, you will just have to accept that.

Instead, try focusing on what you can do. Can you help them figure out a financial plan going forward? If they’re currently paying for hired help, can you come over once a week or so to help them with cleaning or cooking? 

7. Take Care of Yourself

If you’re the caretaker for an aging parent, you’ve probably forgotten how to put yourself first. So many family caregivers go into “caregiver mode,” putting others before themself every time, but this isn’t healthy for you or your parent.

You can’t pour from an empty cup – to give your parent the high-quality care they deserve, you need to be at your best. That means taking care of yourself. Eat well, exercise, get enough sleep, manage your stress and take care of your mental health.

8. Plan Your Parent’s Future With Them, Not for Them

You might be feeling frustrated, but this is frustrating for your parent, too. They may feel like you’re making all their decisions for them, especially if you seem to be planning their future without them.

If you think it’s time for assisted living, definitely have the talk about it with your parent. Just don’t use language that tells them that you’ve already made the decision for them, i.e. “I chose…,” “I decided…,” “This is the best option…,” etc. Instead, discuss all the options with them and give them your opinion if they ask for it. If your parent isn’t able or willing to do the research themself, have a short list of senior living communities ready for them to peruse.

9. Help Your Parent to Move Forward

Asking for help isn’t always easy and this is especially true for older adults who are transitioning to in-home help or assisted living. It can be demoralizing to admit you need daily help and it can take some people time to come to terms with that. Help your parent accept that by reassuring them that they’ve made the right decision. Help them to move forward by discussing their future plans with them. Get them excited about this new era of their life. And let them know that accepting help does not mean the end of their independence. 

10. Ask for Help

Your parent might not be the only one who needs to be reminded that it’s ok to ask for help. If you’re at your wit’s end when it comes to handling your parent’s issues, don’t be afraid to reach out for some support. You can recruit a sibling or other family member to help you convince or reassure your parent. Or maybe help could come in the form of professional in-home care, a transition to senior living or temporary respite care.

Assisted Living Doesn’t Mean Giving Up Independence

At Eagle Flats Village, assisted living doesn’t mean giving up independence. We do everything we can to provide a real home for our residents. We offer spacious private apartments with kitchenettes and bathrooms, comfortable and welcoming public areas, three restaurant-inspired meals per day, daily assistance as needed, and much more.

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