How to Deal With Difficult Aging Parents

It can be difficult dealing with elderly parents that struggle with making the best decisions for their situation, especially if they refuse assistance or advice. It is possible to communicate effectively

How to Deal With Difficult Aging Parents
Dealing with Difficult Aging Parents is possible. Challenging but possible. 
How to Deal with Difficult Aging Parents

It can be difficult dealing with elderly parents that struggle with making the best decisions for their situation, especially if they refuse assistance or advice. But it is possible to communicate with your aging parents effectively. As a primary caregiver it is possible to help them take charge of ensuring healthy choices are made, while still allowing autonomy and independence.

Start by not falling into power struggles; pick battles wisely when expressing opinions. You are still their child, and adult children are often dismissed and discounted by aging parents.

Family caregivers must learn to be persistent but sensitive. Criticizing your elderly parents might put them on the defensive and encourage negative emotions and not allow you to provide assistance for them in the future.

How Do You Help Your Aging Parents to Accept Care?

As your parents age, it can be difficult to navigate the conversation about potential caregiving.

Dealing with elderly parents can be a tricky situation - especially if they're prone to verbally or emotionally abusive behavior. Yelling, lying, accusing and calling insulting names are just some of the common forms of abuse experienced by caregivers for their parents.

There are also more subtle tactics like manipulation and gas lighting that make caregiving even harder on those involved. These are tactics that your aging parents may be using to feel in control, at a time when their bodies and even their minds may fail them.

Take some deep breaths, and acknowledge that you may not ever change your family dynamics. Accepting this will allow setting boundaries to preserve your own mental health and even your physical health. Family caregivers find it difficult to set boundaries with an elderly parent or other family members.

 Is it Normal to Resent Caring for Elderly Parents?

Caring for an elderly parent who exhibits abusive behavior can be a difficult journey. However, by understanding the root cause of their anger and anxiety, finding ways to practice self-care, and utilizing techniques like deep breathing that help maintain calmness during tense moments - it is possible to establish positive relationships with parents while avoiding unhealthy ones from forming between yourself or other family members. Don't let anyone take away your resolve in taking care of both you and those around you!

Navigating the challenging situation of helping aging parents who refuse help can feel overwhelming and confusing, especially with 77% of adult children reporting their elderly parent is stubborn when it comes to taking advice or getting assistance.

 Older Adults Hate Change

It's important to take a step back and consider why they may be resisting support - is it out of habit? Is there an underlying mental health issues, like anxiety or fear that needs addressing? Are they scared about losing independence? Or confused. This may be due to dementia-related symptoms?

Compassionately address these feelings around maintaining independence, as well as facing reality in terms of age, then decide which battles you really want/need your elderly parents (or anyone!) accepting care on: safety should always come first but don't overwhelm them trying too hard at once! Last bit o' wisdom; accept what cannot be changed & understand everyone has a right to make decisions– even bad ones. Then prepare to manage by crisis, because that will happen. It is only a matter of time.

Dealing with challenging behaviors?

Are you dealing with an aging loved one that is angry, hostile, and has verbal outbursts? Dealing with aging parents can be incredibly challenging. As they age, their behavior may become more hostile or angry which makes conversations difficult and often puts family members in a defensive position. I am sure you feel this is emotional abuse. And you would be correct in that assumption.

It is important to try not take it personally and remember that the source of this aggression could stem from various factors associated with aging; such as feeling overwhelmed by life's changes or seeking control where there isn't any left to have. Some older adults may experience personality changes, have difficulty with performing daily tasks and may be experiencing mild cognitive impairment. If you have not taken the Eldercare Communication Course on caregiver relief, I suggest you look into that course. We help you learn how to listen and talk to your loved one. Communicating in a kind, compassionate way, can make a big difference and help you to plan ahead for your parent future care needs.

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    One client's story

    As a primary caregiver, try responding with empathy rather than attacking back. I had a family caregiver, Linda that lived 40 minutes from her parents. Her dad has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Her mother has a bad back and lives with chronic pain. Linda's mom, like many older adults, has a troubled relationship with her 4 daughters. All 4 daughters have families with young children and full time employment.

    Linda was the oldest daughter and was the designated health care proxy for her dad. Her mother insists that Linda go to every doctor's appointment, and expects all 4 daughters to provide support for her and their father. The problem is, Linda's mother was non compliant with any recommendation that the doctors made. Linda's mother dismissed everything the doctor recommended. Her behavior became a source of contention with the daughters.

    Linda's mother was recently ordered in home care for physical therapy. She refused in home care, refusing outside help of any kind. Instead, Linda’s mother insisted that her husband's cognitive decline is not affecting his driving abilities. Linda's mother became very irrational and she began having inappropriate behavior that caused Linda fear and guilt.

    Interacting with her mother became very challenging. Linda's mother refused to talk to Linda. She became angry and refused to talk to any member of the family that she perceived was not on her side and supported her thoughts on her husband's memory loss.

    Linda had to call a family meeting and discuss how to maintain the quality of life for her parents. At the family meeting, it was discussed that Linda's mom, like many seniors, wants to make her own decisions. The family discussed about how much each should visit or help them with daily tasks. One sister discussed the parents moving in with Linda. I explained to the family that a demanding parent will not become less demanding just because you have given in on a particular issue. That's an important fact to remember. Let me say it again- a demanding parent will not become less demanding just because you have given in on a particular issue.

    Learn to set boundaries

    Each family member had to discuss what they will and will not do, when providing care and support to insure a good quality of life for their parents. When it comes to assisting elderly parents who refuse help, remember this: Above all, the goal is to help your parents receive the best care possible. The list was created and each family member decided they would each pitch in funds to help pay for outside help to help transport their parents to doctor’s appointments and help provide care to Linda's dad, as his needs will increase.

    There was a discussion that at in the future, the dad may need to be placed in an assisted living facility, in a memory care unit. The youngest daughter was assigned to explore the assisted living facilities in the area and come back with her findings at the next family meeting.

    The family members decided that they think having their dad placed in the facility they chose, for respite care to get a real feel for the facility and their caregivers.

    Of course, Linda's mom refused the help that was offered. This is a time when you need to set boundaries and set limits on what is expected of you. Do the things you are willing to do, and draw the line over the things you won't do. Don't argue, just stick to your decision.

     Know when to seek help

    There are times when aging parents are uncooperative and cause the family caregiver feelings of guilt. Linda hired a geriatric care manager to support her through her caregiving journey. Linda's relationship with her mom still caused LInda anxiety and frustration. The Care manager took a lot of the stress off of LInda, as she was able to continue to work. Because of the animosity and the verbal abuse of her mother, Linda gave the POA of her father's health care to another sister.

    As hard as it is to accept, any care recipient has the right to make their own decisions and have a say on their own lives. Even if those choices and decisions are not the right choices for them.

    Why Are Your Aging Parents Making Risky Decisions?

    Because, aging can be scary. Seniors often fear the unknown, including the loss of independence and the potential long-term effects of serious medical conditions. This fear may be why many seniors are resistant to seeking help and are sometimes even secretive about any new symptoms they experience.

    There are a lot of factors at play when your parents make the decisions they do. Often, the way you approach them when giving your opinion can make a world of difference. The following tips can help you manage conflict as you navigate what to do with your aging parents in a way that is supportive rather than pushy.

    Behaviors, such as anger, stubbornness and lack of insight may turn into a pattern of abusive behaviors. These behaviors do occur in older adults, at times. These behaviors may stem from a mental health issue that your loved one has lived with for years, or it may be due to personality changes due to a type of dementia.

    Don’t Take Abuse Personally

    In this case, you may already have some coping skills that can help you navigate the situation. However, if abusive behavior is new, this can indicate a change in mental health or cognitive abilities. As difficult as it is, you should never take any attacks personally. If the abusive behavior is new, consider the possibility that your loved one has a urinary tract infection. It is the first thing a family caregiver should consider when they see unusual behaviors. Infections in the elderly do not always have symptoms we may see when they were younger. They may not have a fever, or pain. Caregivers can get a urine sample and have it tested.

    One Client's Story

    I recently had a client call me and tell me the assisted living facility his mom was in is threatening to kick her out of the facility because of her behaviors. First, this man had his mother in an upscale Assisted living. Because she was had dementia, she was on a memory care unit. He was so upset, because he felt panicked there was not going to be a place to put her.

    I asked him if they tested her for a urinary tract infection? He said he did not think so. The caregivers at the facility did not think to check on that. I recommended that he take her to the emergency room, and ask to be tested for a UTI. I normally would not recommend going to the emergency room to be tested for a urinary tract infection.

    The facility was demanding that she be removed from the facility. I suggested the ER because, if her challenging behaviors were not due to an infection, then I suggested that she be admitted to a senior behavioral health unit, to see if her dementia has advanced. Then, she would have medication management to help with her challenging behaviors.

    It turns out that his mother had to be admitted to the hospital for IV antibiotic therapy, Her UTI was so bad, oral antibiotics would not be effective. Of course, if you have a loved one in assisted living, be aware you must still monitor the care of your parent. 

    Keeping the Lines the Lines of Communication Open

    Let's get back to communicating with an aging parent you are providing caregiving for to help them age in place.

    Try explaining how their behavior makes you feel. Remember, you can also leave the situation as long as your loved one is safe, before you go. The difficult issue that adult children face is the constant battle of the child - parent relationship. It is hard not to fall back into that child role.

    Many older adults, especially the women, have provided care to a loved one.

    Many that have been caregivers believe they are entitled to the same level of attention and care they provided to their aging parents. When the aging parent feels as if their family members should be giving up their life, their career and taking care of them. Anxiety and fear starts to creep into the aging parent's behavior. Unrealistic expectations of the elderly parents are the cause of many untoward behaviors.

    Accept that you cannot control everything

    No matter your very best efforts, it’s important to understand you can’t control everything. When it comes to dealing with stubborn, aging parents, persistence and patience are key. But don't expect to resolve everything in one go - it may take several conversations to get through. Also, try not to overwhelm your parent with too much information at once, especially if they have a cognitive impairment. Remember to avoid power struggles and respect their opinions. By empowering them to be part of the decision-making process, you'll build a stronger relationship, free of yelling and disputes.

    Here are some tips for talking to your parents about their well-being:

    Be sensitive, as criticism and judgment can make them defensive. Instead, use "I" statements, like "I'm feeling concerned," to express your thoughts.

    Timing is key! Don't pick a day when everyone's already stressed out. Choose a day when your parents are relaxed and open to discussion.

    Stay calm, even if your parents are resistant to acknowledging the challenges they face. Speak with love and tenderness to reassure them that everything will be okay.

    Taking care of stubborn aging parents can be a challenge, especially if you're feeling frightened, helpless, and frustrated. The emotional abuse is negatively impacting your health.

    Practice self care everyday

    If that's the case, it's important to take care of yourself too. Join a meditation group, visit a counselor, or find a support group. Ask for help from a caregiver coach or a care manager. It is important to know, for every problem there is a solution. There is a solution that will be right for everyone. You just need to take time to find that solution.

    As you continue to support your parents, spend some extra time with them, if the relationship isn't a source of conflict. Asking open-ended questions and proposing solutions will help your interactions become more harmonious.

    Together, you can address your parents' concerns and cultivate trust to support each other. Again, our Eldercare Communications course addresses many different topics and offers tips and strategies to use when you talk with your loved one.

    To make your solution irresistible, focus on the benefits! For example, with assisted living, your loved one won't just get the care they need; they'll enjoy a range of social and recreational activities.

     I recommend that family caregivers not to tackle caregiving all on your own. Keep your siblings in the loop; call for a family meeting or encourage them to speak with your parents. Get everyone on the same page and striving for the same goal. In the Eldercare Communication course, I have a section on how to run a family meeting. I recommend taking a team approach to caregiving.

    Take a team approach to caregiving

    Support your parents by enlisting the help of a friends or neighbors. Oftentimes, it's easier to accept hard truths from someone outside the family circle.

    Still not getting through? Reach out to your parents' doctor. In the end, they may be the one person your parents listen to the most.

    Sometimes it can be tricky convincing our aging loved ones to modify their behaviors, even when it's for their safety. It's important to approach them calmly and remind them that their decisions can affect more than just themselves.

    Try to be understanding and listen to their concerns, even if they're hesitant to open up. At the end of the day, if your parent is unwilling to change, it's important to respect their wishes and honor their independence.

    It's tough when our parents resist making key decisions about their living arrangements or driving habits. If you've tried gentle persuasion to no avail, it may be time to have a heart-to-heart. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

    It's helpful to remind them that their choices affect not just the family, but others as well. No need to talk down to them like they're kids; just be gracious and honest about your concerns. A few gentle reminders that their independence shouldn't come at a cost to others may help.

    Your parents are adults, you cannot control them

    As a family caregiver, we have to realize that our parents are adults, and we can't force them to change. Still, it's worth the effort to express ourselves respectfully and let them know how we feel.

    Last, it's important to listen to their perspective too. Their stubbornness may be coming from a place of fear or worry. Perhaps they're anxious about making friends in a new place, or they're scared to hear what their doctor might say about their condition.

    Whatever the case may be, we must try to understand where they're coming from. Through empathy and compassion, we can have a better chance of helping them make the right decision.

    Now,let's talk about some specific examples you may be dealing with refusing personal care.

    Refusing personal care

    Does your loved one stubbornly refuse to shower or bathe? Personal care is often a sticking point for older adults, especially those with Alzheimer's or dementia.

    There could be multiple reasons for this, such as vulnerability or fear, poor eyesight, or cognitive decline. Modesty is key, and there are easy ways to maintain privacy. You can also try using waterless shampoo and soap to keep your loved one feeling fresh.

     Finally, if a loved one refuses care, it can be difficult and even heartbreaking. Remember that they may be feeling embarrassed or afraid of being a burden. For whatever reason, there are several things you can do to work with your elderly parents. The first thing you have to consider is changing your view on bathing and dressing. Aging skin does not need bathing everyday. Aging skin is often dry. Instead, use the times when they use the bathroom to toilet them, to wash the intimate parts of the body.

     Take time to use warm wash clothes with scented with lavender, to calm them or lemon scents, To awaken them to use on their face and hands before they eat. Create a footbath and while they are sitting and watching tv, allow them to soak their feet and if possible, do nail care. If you have home visiting podiatrists in the area, as them to visit to provide nail care.

     Foul language

    Another common issue with seniors is using inappropriate language or making offensive remarks. While cognitive decline is often the culprit, it can still be challenging for caregivers to deal with. I have heard comments from seniors that would make your hair curl.

    If your loved one starts using offensive language or making improper comments, don't panic. Ignoring the behavior is sometimes the best answer. Or, you might try calmly calling it out and expressing your dislike of the language.

    But remember - dementia can make it difficult for them to remember instructions or consequences. I recommend to my caregivers to get business cards made- on it put - Please excuse my dads behaviors. He has dementia and is unable to control what he is saying.

    Delusions and paranoia

    When a loved one starts experiencing delusions or paranoia, it can be a startling experience. What could be causing this behavior? Medication side effects, dementia, and infections like UTIs can all lead to these behaviors. The key is to work with your loved one's medical team to pinpoint the underlying cause so you can make informed decisions about treatment.


    Hoarding may not always look like the dramatic cases you see on TV, but even small-scale clutter can pose a hazard. It's important to understand that hoarding can stem from a need for control, a desire to save memories, anxiety, or cognitive decline. If your loved one hoards food, it's important to check the fridge and cabinets for sanitation issues. For those with dementia, creating a rummage drawer can help curb the urge to hoard.

    Concerned over spending habits?

    Are you worried about your older loved one’s spending habits? Many seniors are on a fixed income and living frugally can be a smart move. However, extreme frugality can often lead to dangerous behaviors like refusing to turn on the air conditioning or skipping medication. On the other hand, overspending is equally possible and can drain their finances.

    Luckily, there are several solutions.. If you suspect that your loved one is making poor financial decisions due to dementia or other mental health condition, don't hesitate to consult with their physician or other experts. Are you a family caregiver dealing with an aging parent's spending habits? It's a common issue that can leave you pulling out your hair. Some seniors overspend while others refuse to spend at all on essential things like medication or long-term care.

    Talking about money can be a tough topic, but ignoring the issue won't make it go away. It's directly connected to your loved one's ability to remain independent. Plus, mismanaging finances can be an early sign of dementia. Don't wait until it's too late to address this.

    If your loved one insists everything is fine (even when it's not), don't get discouraged. There are options. For over spenders, try presenting the total amount they've spent on shopping sprees. Seeing the impact in black and white can be a wake-up call. For hoarders, it might be more about ingrained beliefs from the Great Depression. But showing them the out-of-pocket costs you're paying for their care can help them see the bigger picture. There are times when you must take some unpleasant actions.

    If you are POA over finances, you may want to lower the credit card limit, if they are overspending. You can block incoming calls from charities that solicit money. If you have a family member that buys stuff from the TV, like the shopping networks, you may want to call them and tell them of the situation and close their accounts. This must be done by a letter, and a copy of your POA papers.

    You want what's best for your aging parent. It's tough to navigate, but bringing in a third-party advisor or spiritual leader can help. And if you haven't already, consider setting up a durable power of attorney for finances document to prepare for the future.

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