We’ve all experienced them. Family conflicts can be some of the most emotionally painful of all.
The struggles we have with aging parents are coming up for more of us Boomers because we are getting older. Our parents are living longer and longer. Research shows us that most Boomers still have at least one living parent.
Often, we see that they need some help. It can be expected in advanced years. How many people do you know in their late 80′s who don’t need any kind of help whatsoever? My mother in law, Alice, is 89. She’s still on her own, but she needs help with a lot of things, and pretty much every day, she gets some help with something.
But a lot of other aging parents often don’t think they need assistance. They are used to deciding what is best for themselves and they are not too pleased with the idea of giving that up. The switch to having you, the adult child tell your parent what to do is not an easy switch. It’s often called “role reversal” when you have to parent your own parent.
Role reversal creates conflict. Some of that conflict is within yourself. No matter how old you are, you don’t want to displease your parent if you can help it. You need to assert yourself to keep your aging parent safe, but you are afraid of upsetting him or her. For example, you may know that Mom or Dad is not safe to be driving any longer, but you are fearful of asking or telling your parent to give it up.
Sometimes, the feeling of frustration and even anger at your aging parent can overwhelm you when you are only trying to help. How can they be so stubborn?
At AgingParents.com, we often hear the complaint that an adult child can’t get the aging parent to accept help at home. Accepting help for aging persons is symbolic. It means giving up their independence and accepting their limitations. It creates fear. The parent’s resistance is not about what’s reasonable. It’s about their emotions.
You may be trying to reason with them about what is safest, what is best, and pointing out all the logical reasons for getting someone to come in and help with bathing, cooking, or cleaning. You keep pointing out the benefits. Your parent keeps saying “no”. Why can’t you persuade them? Why won’t they listen to you?
They don’t want to accept help or take your suggestions because emotionally, it feels as if they are losing control of their lives if they do. The most effective way around this is to stop trying to make logical arguments. Stop using reason. Just stick to a different strategy.
The most successful strategy to use is to say that you want what is best for your parent, and they need to do this for you. Avoid talking about the benefits. Skip the warnings about what can go wrong if they don’t do what you suggest. Help Mom or Dad remember that they taught you a basic value: to do what you thought was best for yourself. Now you’re trying to do what you think is indeed best for yourself. They need to do it for your sake.
You need to say how not accepting help puts an increased burden on you. That’s not what is best for you.
When you cease arguing with your aging parent, and stop trying to address an emotional subject with the use of reason, your conflicts will calm down and your frustration level will dramatically fall. This can apply to just about anything you want your aging parent to do. Try it out.