Seniors Outreach - September 6, 2017

Sometimes adult children of seniors ask us how best to deal with a ‘stubborn parent’—one who refuses to see the reality of their situation, whether declining health, or loss of cognitive or other abilities. We’d like to pass along an article from an affiliate of the “A Place for Mom” organization—Assisted Senior Living.

Why seniors are stubborn

• Feeling they are losing their independence

• Fear of losing control of their lives

• Feeling depressed about the deaths of spouse, friends, and/or family

• Feel they are being left out of the family

• Fear of their own mortality

• Fears of family placing them in a nursing home

• Isolation

• Anger

• Dementia

Dealing with stubbornness

• Put yourself in their shoes because you will be there someday. Your parents are losing bits of their independence day by day. They may not drive at night as well. They may not be able to go on the same hikes anymore. Any of these losses no matter how seemingly small, start to add up.

Think about it: your roles are slowly reversing. The ones that raised you are now leaning on you more and more. And that’s painful for some seniors.

• Ask questions. Rather than telling them what to do, ask for their opinions. “What is the best solution for your difficulty in driving at night?” Let them come up with the answers. If they act like there is no problem, cite specific examples and why it’s concerning. “Do you remember you almost ran into that pedestrian the other night?”

Be careful not to come across as condescending or to act as if you’re the parent. These conversations are hard enough.

Also, by asking questions, you are showing that you value their opinion. And them coming up with solutions is empowering.

• Listen more than you talk. A good idea in almost any situation and particularly useful when with your parents. How will you know what is bothering them (and making them stubborn) if you don’t listen, no matter how trivial the conversation. They may be trying to tell you something without telling you. Sometimes you’ll have to read between the lines.

• One stubborn parent affecting the other. If one parent is placing the other in danger, you need to address this, especially if the non-stubborn parent won’t speak up or has tried with no success.

Try to have your own solutions worked out before the conversation. So if Dad says, “How are we supposed to get around if I don’t drive at night?” You can say, “There is a local senior transport service that runs in the evenings.”

• Spend more time with them. Sometimes your parents just want to see you more but don’t know how to say it. If your parents are not able to visit you for health or financial reasons, go to them. Visiting them once a year may mean you can count on your hands how many more times you’ll see them before they’re gone.

If face-to-face visits are hard because of geography, pick up the phone more often. Send more emails. They’re not as personal but it shows you’re thinking of them.

We, at Seniors Outreach, may be able to point out other resources to help with difficult family members or discussions. Please feel free to call us for any advice about necessary senior supports, or just drop by for a visit. We’re here to assist the seniors of the Kneehill region, including their caring family members.

This article is reprinted with the permission as credited.