Caring For Aging Parents
More and more, baby boomers find themselves tending to aging parents which increases stress in many already hot button issues. Trying to achieve cooperation can be difficult at best and downright contentious at worst. The following article discusses the difficulties and offers some very simple solutions that may help in turning that stubborn parent around.
Taking Care of Elderly Parents – Getting Past “We’re Doing OK”
By: Martin R. Sabel
When it comes to helping an elderly parent, you may get frustrated when they rebuff your offers to help. What do you do when you have a mom or dad who is not willing to cooperate with you? How do you handle a parent who says: “Everything is fine, honey. I appreciate your concern, but really, there is nothing to worry about”?
You get forced to the sidelines to worry about their safety. Frequently throughout the day you are tormented with thoughts about their well-being popping in and out of your head. Those worries are like “Chinese water torture” with a slow, maddening, unpredictable dripping of water on your forehead.
The simple truth is you may get denial the first time out. An undeniable reality is that as a caring adult child, you have limited authority. All you can really do, assuming mom or dad’s situation is not life-threatening or dangerous, is to let them know you are available if and when they need help.
Your parents are adults. If they choose to deny their needs and make bad decisions, they have the legal right to do so. They have their own needs and concerns and they have the right to make their own decisions – good or bad.
Look at it this way: If somebody walks into your home and starts bossing you around, telling you how to live your life, you won’t like it very much. Your mom or dad will feel the same way. They will like it even less it’s her son or daughter doing the bossing. Like it or not, you may be a successful 58-year-old, but to your mom, you’re still the kid whose butt she powdered. You are still her “kid”.
Reverse the Guilt Flow
One way to handle an elderly parent’s denial is to reverse the guilt flow. Approach it as, “Would you do it for me?” as opposed to, “You need to do this for you.” Try phrasing your concern in a way that says, “I need you to do this because it will help me” in some respect. It often gets their cooperation.
By taking this approach you are expressing your emotion about their situation. What comes through to your mom is, “I am really concerned that you could harm yourself or harm somebody else. I feel bad about this.”
It could turn their thinking around.
Rather than figuratively poking your finger on your dad’s chest saying, “Look, you need to make this change!” you are sitting down, holding both his hands and saying, “I have some concerns. Will you help me out?” Doing so “reverses the flow” and often gets their cooperation.
Magic Phrases That Melt Resistance
Listen to the way you sound when you talk to your mom. Are you pushy? Condescending? Starting sentences with any of the following phrases, screams disrespect for your mom or dad’s decision making ability:
“Mom you need to…”
“Can’t you see…”
“You’re being stubborn…”
“What you need to do is…”
Remember how you reacted when you were a teenager and you heard those same words coming out of her mouth? You didn’t like it much, right? You turned a deaf ear and refused to listen. Your mom won’t feel any different now that the roles are reversed.
Neutralize you parent’s tendency to argue by using phrases that are not judgmental. Pay attention to the words you use and how you frame your comments. You gain a more willing ear by beginning sentences with:
“I’m worried about…”
“I’d feel better if…”
“How do you feel about…”
Your approach will be perceived as less threatening and help you gain a more willing ear.
With the right information, you can reduce caregiver stress, keep your life in balance, save money and get better care for your elderly parents.
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