3 Tips for Stubborn Aging Parents

At The Devoted Daughter, we take pride in offering advice and tips on how to navigate through the aging process. But what do you do when you have all the information, but your person isn’t willing to budge?

First off, I’d encourage you to remember that this is a time of loss for many seniors. Their bodies may be changing, their abilities to accomplish tasks, their independence, and even the people around them. When you put yourself in their position, I think it’s understandable for some to put up a bit of a wall.

Secondly, I’d suggest trying to find the root of the problem. Are they fighting you out of habit? Is the loss of independence weighing on them? Maybe they are afraid or feeling depressed? What may seem like moving or replacing a simple rug to you may feel like an extreme loss to your person. It’s hard to know what attachments they may have to that rug if they’ve owned it for a long time or purchased it with a special someone. So the problem with moving the rug may not have anything to do with the rug itself. Instead, the pushback may be stemming from a much deeper emotion of loss.

If you can understand why someone may be reacting the way they are, you’re going to be much better off when broaching subjects.

As for having these conversations, I would select your time carefully for both you and the person. You may find your parents are more agreeable at certain parts of the day. Or that you have much more patience with a full stomach. Don’t discount the way that how you’re responding may make them feel defensive or aggressive, so pay attention to when you’re at your best as well.

Next, be sure to approach this with baby steps. I know that sometimes, there isn’t time for baby steps, and you just have to do what you have to do. But if you can, this can make a huge difference in making progress.

If you know what your end goal is, map out the smaller steps you can take to get there. For example, if you think it’s becoming unsafe for mom to be driving, you’ll have much more success with adding in alternative transportation options before taking away the keys. You may start by teaching her how to use Lyft or Uber or having the grandkids or a friend drive her to her next appointment or outing. Then after you’ve shown other options for getting around, the conversation about hanging up the keys will often be more accepted if mom knows she won’t feel stranded in her house all day and can still get around on her own.

Finally, I would select your phrasing with care. Please remember, no matter what, these are your parents. These are people who have raised you and known you your entire life. It’s no wonder they may feel like their backs are up against the wall if you start telling them what to do.

Before any of these conversations, go through what you’d like to say in your head, on a piece of paper, type it out, whatever works for you. Then, objectively go over your words and put yourself in their shoes. Changing a phrase I’ve heard families blurt out countless times like, “Mom, this is just the way it has to be if you’re going to stay at home.” to “Mom, I know this is hard, and this is your home, but could you try this grab bar for me?” is guaranteed to put them less on the defensive.