How To Deal With Stubborn Aging Parents

Looking after an aging parent can be stressful. Sometimes seniors become more obstinate with age. Other times, dementia, medications, and similar complications can make things more difficult. But like almost any conflict, learning how to deal with stubborn aging parents can help ensure better outcomes for everyone involved.Image of stubborn senior woman and her daughter sitting on the couch

Reasons for Being Stubborn

Dealing with difficult elderly parents is much easier once you understand the reasons for their behavior. For example, there are any number of reasons some seniors stubbornly refuse to practice good hygiene. As we age, our sense of smell goes into decline. And fear of slipping in the tub can be a component, if loved ones are too embarrassed to ask for help.

There are a thousand reasons for being stubborn. Many seniors experience chronic pain, which can make almost anyone feel disagreeable. Sometimes medications can cause personality changes, or bad behaviors may be the result of diseases like dementia. The list goes on.

That’s part of the reason why it’s important to intermittently evaluate your parent’s needs. That might include needs with respect to their mobility, hygiene, meal preparation, home safety, family support, and socialization. For example, does a memory problem mean they require help with medication management?

What about dealing with negative elderly parents who shout or express rage? Again, it helps to look for the cause of their anger. It could be related to pain, memory issues, or conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. In some cases, caretakers can do little about these kinds of outbursts besides learning to cope by not taking them personally.

Exercising Understanding for Dealing with Aging Parents

Aging can be frightening and frustrating. People gradually lose independence, experience prejudice against the elderly, and the rate of depression among seniors speaks for itself. This can sometimes lead aging adults to try and maintain as much control over their lives as possible, which can cause a person to be stubborn to the point of endangering themselves.

You’ll need to be able to distinguish between disagreements which are over something irritating but unimportant, and disagreements that present an authentic safety concern. And like any relationship, it’s important to be flexible and willing to compromise.

Effective Communication for Dealing with Elderly Parents

When you’re planning care, include your parents in the decision-making as much as possible. That can help them feel like a partner in the process, rather than someone who’s been left powerless. Likewise, as a general rule, try and listen more than you talk. If you find out what is bothering them, you may find what is making them stubborn, and may be able to address the issue directly.

When dealing with demanding elderly parents, use assertive communication, not aggressive or passive communication. If you’re passive and don’t assert your own needs, you’ll end up being pushed around. With aggressive communication, you will force your needs onto others. Assertive communication is the middle-point which allows for everyone’s needs to be considered.

Learning how to deal with aging parents can involve trial and error. Don’t feel bad if you fail to mediate a conflict. Don’t nag or push your parents because a power struggle could damage your relationship, and endanger their health. Sometimes all we can do is stand by and let people make their decisions, only jumping in when needed. But with better listening and communication, it’s often possible to resolve these difficult situations.