Published By: Hilary Young
Experiencing a parent-child role reversal in your later years can be confusing, complicated and frustrating. It can be a blow to a parent’s ego to have to have their child take care of them–instead of seeing it as a necessary part of the process, they see it as losing part of their dignity. Trying to maintain their independence can often lead to arguments–they don’t think they need help, they don’t want to take their medication, or they don’t want to make necessary changes to their homes to ensure their safety. If any of this sounds familiar to you, you probably also know that getting angry at them isn’t usually the most effective method for handling a stubborn parent.
So here’s what does work:
Stop being a people-pleaser. You can’t please everyone all the time, even your parents. When you make a mutual decision with an aging parent that you are going to act as their caregiver, that means that they are trusting you to make the decisions about their well-being that they can’t make. They might not always like it, but they’ll learn to deal with it.
Don’t take it personally. As people feel their independence slipping away from them, they say things they don’t mean in an attempt to hold on to some semblance of control. They might also be speaking out of fear, so try to let their comments roll off your back.
Safety first. You have to prioritize the things your parent chooses to pick fights about. Is it about not wanting to take a walk that day? Maybe you can let that one slide. Is it about not wanting to see a doctor, or take their medication? That’s an issue worth fighting for as it can effect their safety, health, and well-being. Try to appeal to them through love–let them know that the decision they are making is hurting you, when all you want to do is help them.
Let go of guilt. You could always be doing more–for a parent, a child, a spouse, a friend–but doing more for someone else means doing less for you. As a Caregiver, it’s important to take time for yourself. And don’t feel guilty about it, because without taking time for yourself, you’ll start to experience “Caregiver Burnout,” which significantly reduces your ability to do anything for anyone.
Talk it out. If you notice a pattern of bad behavior from an aging parent–expletives, emotional abuse, or guilt trips–it has to be addressed. If you have trouble confronting your parent about this issue, you might consider seeking professional help. Having your feelings validated by an outsider will build up your confidence to have this difficult conversation with your loved one.
If you’ve tried all of these things and still can’t feel calm around a stubborn parent, we would recommend talking to a professional. There are many skilled psychologists out there who can serve as a sounding board for you and provide you with the tools you need to move forward in your Caregiving role.