Senior Care Blog Wayland and Weston

How to Communicate Effectively with Aging Parents Who are Stubborn

By Denise Roskamp

How to Communicate Effectively with Aging Parents

Anyone who has become a caretaker for aging parents knows that as they age, they can become stubborn. Whether it’s dementia setting in, medications, or just a loss of control, seniors can become obstinate as they age and that can present its own special set of challenges for those doing the caretaking. So, how do you deal with stubborn parents?

Reasons for Being Stubborn

It’s important to understand why elderly parents become stubborn in their later years. Let’s take one common example of stubbornness in the elderly: the refusal to practice good hygiene. You may have seen this with your senior loved ones too. As they age, not only does their sense of smell tend to decline, but they are also afraid of things like tripping in the bathtub, so while it might look like just being plain stubborn to you, it is actually based in fear and worry for them. No adult wants to ask for help bathing. So, we have to consider their pride and ego as well.

There are hundreds of reasons that stubbornness might rear its head in seniors. Consider the fact that they may be dealing with pain, which can affect anyone’s mood. They may also be suffering from medication side effects that are no fun, there could be personality changes due to dementia, and the list goes on.

The key here is to evaluate your parents’ needs from time to time, and not just when things are frustrating. How are they getting along in daily tasks? Perhaps they need assistance with getting nutritious meals on the table or making sure they are bathed well and have good hygiene. How safe is their home? Do they have regular contact with family and opportunities to socialize regularly? These are all VERY important questions that should be answered.

Perhaps you have found your aging parents shouting things out of the blue or going into a rage over something minor. This may point to a cognitive decline such as dementia or Alzheimer’s. If you find this happening, the best way to cope is to always remember not to take anything personally. Most likely, they won’t remember the outburst, and, in the moment, they have no other coping skills. It’s very difficult to deal with, but not impossible.

Coping with Compassion

The aging process can be downright uncertain and scary for any of us at any point! Imagine feeling like you have no control over who you are or what is going on in your world. Aging parents may feel they are losing everything that is familiar or losing their independence. They may feel that the rest of the world just wants to get rid of elderly people, which causes them to never feel safe. Depression among seniors is incredibly high, and it doesn’t have to be this way!

So, What Can We Do?

Firstly, you need to quick to recognize the difference between “irritating” things that are not important, and disagreements that actually pose a safety concern. Just like all other relationships, you must look for ways to compromise and find a solution both of you can agree on. This is easier than you might think!

Effective Communication with Elderly Parents

Here are a few helpful tips for having the best chance at effective communication with your aging parents. Keeping these points in mind will help them not feel powerless and will help you make decisions that are in their best interest!

1. Include your parents in the care plan whenever possible. Remember—no one likes feeling powerless, especially as they enter their golden years!

2. Use communication that is not passive or aggressive. You need to speak clearly and assertively.

3. Remember—you’re having a conversation. This means you need to discuss your own needs as well as theirs. Failing to do this will lead to frustration and even resentment.

4. Be willing to have trial and error! It might take a few tries to find the right solutions. The important thing is that you are willing to compromise and try things another way.

5. Don’t nag or speak with a belittling tone. Your relationship with your parents is a precious one. Don’t endanger it during their final years by arguing or nagging. Power struggles will only damage things and cause wounds in the relationships you care most about.

6. Bring the stress level down. Living under stress will put anyone’s health in danger. We have all heard how many diseases and conditions come simply from your body reacting to stress. Finding ways to live peacefully, even when you have to compromise, will keep your parents healthier and will certainly keep YOU healthier!

For more information on how to communicate with stubborn loved ones, please contact us today. We’re here to help!

Home Helpers of MetroWest is a locally-owned, trusted home health care agency and offers quality, compassionate senior in-home care services including home care assistance, 24-hour live-in care, personal care, companion care, respite care, Alzheimer's & dementia care, Parkinson's care as well as homemaker services in ConcordFraminghamLincolnMarlboroughNatickSouthboroughSudbury, WaylandWellesley, and Weston, Massachusetts. 

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