As your parents grow older, you might start to worry: Is Mom able to drive herself to doctor appointments? Does dad seem depressed spending all day at home? Is anything in the fridge past its expiration date? It’s natural to be concerned about your aging parents, but trying to “parent” them may strain your relationship – especially if, in their opinion, Mom and Dad are perfectly fine living on their own.
These tips can help you navigate your relationship with your elderly parents as you start to care for them more frequently.
- Put yourself in their shoes. No matter their age, your parents likely want to be in control and make most of their own decisions for as long as possible. Most seniors fear losing their independence (for example, handing over the car keys) and don’t want to become reliant on their adult children. By understanding, accepting, and respecting your elderly parents’ emotions about the loss of control and invasions to their privacy, you may have an easier time navigating their care.
- Learn the difference between “caring about” and “caring for.” Dropping by every week to cook dinner is one thing, but using a visit just to inspect the contents of your parents’ fridge is another. You always mean well, of course, but they may not see it that way: Several studies indicate that seniors are annoyed by too much doting, but at the same time appreciate the concern of their children. Recognize that while they prefer to maintain their independence, they are grateful your help is only a phone call away if they need it.
- Don’t assume they’re taking your advice. You may have asked your father repeatedly not to shovel the driveway, chances are he’s probably doing it anyway. This behavior of aging is his way of maintaining control. Instead of telling Dad not to do something, talk to him about your worries instead. He’ll likely be more receptive. Revisit the idea several times if you’re concerned, but avoid arguing with him over what you think is best. This may make him feel defensive and not open to hearing your side.
- Think about how your actions are perceived. If, during your visits with your parents, Mom forgets the day or date, what do you do? Talking about your parents like they’re not in the room or even exchanging knowing looks with siblings or your spouse can make your parents anxious about aging and strain your relationship.
- Remember that less can sometimes be more. Stopping by several times a week to stock the fridge, pay bills, and help out around the house may feel like a good deed to you, but at the same time, it may drive Mom and Dad crazy. In general, seniors never want to rely on family to take care of the most basic things they’ve been doing for decades, and if you push too much, they may not share when they really need assistance. If shopping for groceries won’t endanger your parents’ safety, then let them handle it on their own.
If you’re finding it difficult to navigate this new stage in your relationship with your elderly parents, contact us today.