Caring for your parents as they age can be a very complicated and emotionally fraught task for all involved. Managing things like healthcare, finances and safety for the Mom and Dad who once took care of such things for you can be difficult on a variety of levels.
As difficult as it may be for you, it is important to be aware that it may be much more so on your aging parents as your roles in the family dynamic essentially become reversed.
For that reason, you may find that, as your parents become less able to care for themselves, they may become more determined than ever to hang on to as much independence and control as they can. Often, this means becoming resistant to your efforts to help them. So how can you get around that resistance?
Here are 5 tips on how to deal with aging parents that may help ease the strain as you work to help keep them as healthy, happy, and safe as possible.
1. Pick Your Battles
Choosing your battles carefully may be the most important thing to know about how to deal with aging parents who tend to be difficult about accepting your help. Keep your discussion centered around the most important topics in terms of health, well-being, and safety. Your parents may have habits or ways of doing things that you are not thrilled with, but if they do not cause immediate danger or ill-health, it may be best to leave them be. Save your efforts for the larger issues and avoid getting caught up in a battle of wills over the small stuff.
2. Choose Your Discussion Times Wisely
When you need to have difficult discussions with your aging parents, try to sit down with them when everyone is feeling relaxed. Tough discussions might be easier for all involved after an enjoyable family meal, for instance, than they might be after a long, stressful day of medical appointments.
3. Be Compassionate– But Not Patronizing
Your roles in the family dynamic may have reversed to some extent, but they are still your parents. When you take on the role of caregiver, it can be easy to fall into the habit of speaking to them as if they were children.
To avoid that trap – a common cause of friction and resistance in these situations – be very aware of the tone of your discussion. Be sure that you are speaking to your parents with respect and with sympathy for their situation, one adult to another.
4. Offer Specific Suggestions
Have a plan to provide for your parents’ needs ready to be clearly spelled out for them. If you have practical, detailed solutions to offer for the problems they are encountering every day, they might be more receptive to the idea of letting you help. For instance, if keeping groceries in the house is an issue, have some recommendations ready, such as a grocery delivery service, or a specific person or agency that can manage the shopping.
5. Ask for Their Opinions and Preferences
Expressing your own suggestions for making your parents’ lives safer and easier is important, but so is really listening to how they feel things should be done. When it comes to how to deal with difficult aging parents, being willing to make some compromises – home modifications and home health care instead of assisted living, for instance – is essential. Work out a plan that respects their opinions, preferences and desires to some degree, but still improves their level of safety and well-being.