How to Deal With Stubborn Aging Parents

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how to deal with stubborn aginig parents

It can be a heart wrenching situation to cope with – looking at your once independent and capable parents one day be ruined by age and become totally dependable upon you.

It can drain you emotionally, physically, and financially. I’m sure the list goes on.

To be completely honest, I dread the day my dad needs help with his daily care. I know it’s a selfish thing to say, but he’s as stubborn as they come and I don’t imagine that will change any time soon.

I figure it’s better to prepare now then wait for judgement day, so I took to the internet to find out what I could do to make caring for him easier on both of us.

Equipped with my newly learned tips and my experience caring for residents affected by Alzheimer’s disease, I made this resource so you know how to deal with stubborn aging parents.

Why Are They Being Stubborn?

Before you can effectively deal with stubborn parents, you need to understand where they’re coming from and why they’re being so difficult.

These can be hard hurdles to get over, but time and persistence will pay off in the end. I’ve seen many residents refuse help over the years, but eventually they come around because they have to.

Either they’ve refused to eat and are now hungry or they refused to change their clothes and now they can’t stand the smell of themselves. There comes a breaking point………….eventually.

1. They don’t want to be a burden on you

I’ve seen this happen quite a bit at the nursing home I work at. A resident will avoid asking for help because they don’t want to trouble us. Once they know you’re happy to help, they should be more willing to accept.

Just clarify to your parent that it’s not a burden on you and you’re happy to spend time with them and help whenever they need it. You’ll realize this will be the most bonding you’ve ever had with your parent. You’ve never been closer.

2. They feel ashamed or embarrassed

Your parents raised you to be the person you are today, and now the tables are turned. Instead of you looking up to them, they have to look up at you and that can be an awkward situation to be in.

Don’t let them lose their sense of power and dignity. Yes, you’re helping them out, but just say you’re returning the favor for all the years they helped you. Let them know they are still your role model and that you’ll always look up to them no matter what.

3. They don’t realize they need help

Memory loss and forgetfulness is an unfortunate part of aging. More than half of adults have concerns about memory by the age of 60.

Your parent could be experiencing memory loss and not even realize it. This isn’t just an issue of needing help, but it’s now a concern for their safety.

It could start as missing a meal, forgetting to turn off the stove, or running a stop sign. You need to keep an eye out for situations like this before they turn disastrous.

4. They don’t want help

This situation can be the hardest to overcome. Imagine for a minute giving up your independence and relying on another person to help with the basic tasks of daily living.

Your mom or dad have been telling you what to do most of your life and hell if they’re going to listen to you bark orders at them. But like I said earlier, even the most stubborn parent will eventually have a breaking point. Let’s see what we can do about.

Now that you know the possible reasons behind their stubbornness, you can start to work with them.

How to Deal with Stubborn Aging Parents

Taking care of aging parents at home (either at your home or theirs) can be challenging and it requires dedication of both time and effort.

Before making a decision to care for your elderly parents at home, it’s important to discuss such matters with them to avoid any misunderstanding. Some parents may be offended that you think they need help, but you’ll have to overcome this.

They may feel embarrassed, ashamed, or even misunderstood. Make them understand why you want to help, why they need help, and how it will benefit both of you.

It can be challenging to take care of your aging parents, but it can also be very rewarding. No matter how stubborn they can be, it’s your responsibility as their child to figure out how to best care for them and get the help they need to live a great quality of life.

Here are some techniques we use when dealing with stubborn residents at our nursing home and other tips I’ve find helpful while doing research for this resource.

Let’s use a sample scenario…

Your mom hasn’t taken a bath for a week and isn’t smelling too good. She needs your help!

Use the following steps to help persuade your mom to have her much needed bath…or whichever activity you need your parent to do.

1. Offer Your Parent Choices

Giving someone multiple choices instead of a set objective can help with bringing a positive outcome. It’s a technique that can be used on any age, in fact, it works well with children too. For example, I will ask my son, “Do you want to make your bed before or after breakfast?” The idea behind this is I’m not really giving him a chance to say no. He’s most likely going to pick before or after instead of refusing altogether.

In our example scenario, instead of saying “Mom, I’m going to give you a bath now.” say, “Mom, would you like a bath in the morning or before you go to bed?” Using the first statement gives them an opportunity to say no. You want to avoid that at all costs. Give them 2 or 3 options to choose from.

If they still refuse, you’ll have to take another approach.

2. Ask Them Why?

After your parent refuses what you’ve asked them to do, ask them why?

In the bath scenario, I would simply ask, “Mom, why don’t you want to have a bath?” Depending on her answer you may be able to deflect her reason for not wanting a bath. Here are some possible reasons why and how you could go about solving them:

  • She might say she doesn’t want to be cold. If that’s the case, offer her a warm towel when her body is exposed to the air. You can find inexpensive towel warmers or place a towel over a heat register to make it toasty. Warm towels and heated blankets are a Godsend at our nursing home.
  • She might say she had one already. If you know that’s not true, tell her you’ve already ran her bath water and it would be a waste to drain the tub.

3. State the Positives

Whatever the task you’re trying to get your parent to do, make it a positive experience. Tell them all the benefits you can think of and one might strike a cord.

In terms of the bath scenario, you could say:

  • “The bath will be nice and relaxing”.
  • “The water is warm”
  • “It’s good for your skin”
  • “I can do your nails and hair”

4. Offer Rewards

This may be approaching a grey area, but offering bribes rewards may help persuade your parent to follow along.

Here are some examples for our bathing scenario:

  • “Mom, I can clean your nails when you’re in the tub”,
  • “After your bath we can go to the salon to have your hair done”
  • “We have company coming over, you should have a bath before they arrive”
  • “I’ll give you $20 to have a bath” – okay, maybe not this one 🙂

5. Reapproach at a Later Time

After some time has passed, it’s a good idea to reapproach your parent. Depending on your parent’s memory loss, you could reapproach in an hour or two, or even the next day.

Again, offer them choices, state the positives, and offer rewards. Persistence will pay off. They may get sick of hearing you and jump right in the tub!…or do whatever you’ve been hounding them to do.

6. Ask them When

If all else fails, let them pick the time. It will give them a sense of power and freedom. They aren’t on your clock anymore.

Mom, when would you like to have your bath?

If you tried these techniques and haven’t succeeded in your attempts to provide help, here are more things you may want to try.

1. Be Patient

It’s almost a no brainer, but there’s no need to be harsh in any situation. Remain calm and pleasant. There’s alway another day.

2. Provide Emotional Support

In many cases, your parent’s friends or siblings have passed away. They need someone to be their advocate. Someone to listen to their frustrations and desires. Someone to make things right.

Ask your parent questions about their friends, focusing on the good memories and experiences.

3. Visit Your Parents Often

One way to connect to your parents is by always having that special moment with them; Spare some time to spend with your parents. This can make a difference to them, apart from enjoying your company; they will also see it as you do appreciate their presence and these makes them

In addition, when you visit your parents in their homes, it will give you a good opportunity to know if they are safe, emotionally sound and living good. It is also important to ensure that your aging parents have good neighbors thus, they can keep checking-in often while you’re away to see if they are okay.

4. Hire a Professional Caregiver

If you are tied up with your job or your elderly parents live in their own home, you may consider hiring a professional caregiver to help your parents around. Apart from being a companion, they can also help the old folks out when they need it or even take them for check-ups or to the doctor in-case of any emergency.

Maybe your parent is embarrassed to have their child help them. You haven’t seen mom or dad naked before and they don’t want that to change. Hiring help, may be sort of a disconnect.

4. Engage Them in Regular Exercise

It’s important to know that when older people exercise on a regular basis, probability of them getting diseases is limited and it makes them looks younger by averagely 10-15 years. You can start with light exercises and later take-up to more advanced exercises depending on their capabilities.

Some of the exercises you may introduce to them include; daily walks, playing golf, yoga-mediation which is said to be very effective when it comes to enhancing brain power thus instead of their brain shrinking due to the aging that causes cases of memory loss, it instead
increase or maintain the old folks brain power, therefore, with a healthy, well-balanced and nutritious diet, your aging parents will always be active and full of memory. It’s so sad when your own parent can’t remember and asks you are every time.

5. Outline their social involvement

Elderly people may become isolated, lonely as well as at high risk of suffering from depression since their independence becomes limited. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that your aging parents stay socially engaged or connected with other people of their age as well as the rest-of the world. You can get them connected or involved with others by engaging them in certain community activities like volunteering in your local community, encouraging them to make friends through visiting clubs or even joining common hobby courses, sharing meals with other people especially of their age and much more.

Personally, you can do certain things together to make them feel better such as going out for a walk together, going shopping, playing cards or games and even just talking; all these will make them feel great end energized emotionally. It’s important to know that, at their stage, all they seek more than anything else is the company.

Find the Source of Their Stubbornness

Talk to your parent to find out what’s bothering them. Refusing a task you asked them to do may not have anything to do with what you asked of them. They could be depressed, they might be in pain or feel sick. Heck, maybe their tv program is on in 5 minutes and they don’t want to miss it.

You won’t solve this overnight, but day by day you’ll begin to break down the barriers.

One Response to How to Deal With Stubborn Aging Parents

  1. Sarah Cummings says:

    I really appreciate the content of this article. Very very helpful for everyone. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

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