4 Expert Tips for Handling Difficult Parents

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Being a caregiver can be one of the most important and personally rewarding roles a person will play in their lifetime. But after the fifth time your mom refuses to take a shower or your dad complains about the dinner you made, it can also feel like one of the most challenging roles.

Read More about our 4 Tips for Handling Difficult Parents:

Maybe your elderly parent has always been critical or headstrong, but some difficult behaviors can also be indications of something else, whether it be depression or loneliness to something as serious as dementia. Either way, it can be really hard.

If you’re dealing with a stubborn, negative, irrational, or depressed parent, here is a closer look at some of the most common mental and physical causes as well as tips for coping with them.

 

Dealing with a Stubborn Aging Parent?

How many times have you told our dad that he should consider a hearing aid only to get the same response: “My hearing is just fine!” How often does your mom ask for help in the kitchen only to insist on doing things “her way.”

One of the most common challenges family caregivers face is handling a stubborn parent. In fact, it’s so common that stubbornness is a self-reported problem in 90 percent of families with aging parents.

If you’re only offering your aging parent a helping hand, but feel like you can’t do anything right or are being met with stubborn resistance when you make a simple suggestion that would benefit them, there could be a few factors at play, including:

  • Fear of losing control of their lives
  • Feeling they are losing their independence
  • Fear of aging and their own mortality
  • Anger
  • Dementia

For instance, the thought of moving into an assisted living community can feel like just another change that brings more loss of control — and thinking about change and the unknown can be scary. If your parent is avoiding the assisted living conversation because they’re afraid of change, what seems like stubbornness might simply be an opportunity for a heart-to-heart with your parent.

However, some seniors are stubborn because it might be a sign of dementia.

“It’s possible that they’ve forgotten how to do something,” says Jonathan Athanas, Executive Director of The Arbors at Dracut. “Now they’re communicating that way instead of saying, ‘I can’t do it.’ For instance, if Mom or Dad are resistant to bathing, they might have forgotten the functionality of taking the soap and putting it on the washcloth.’”

 

Coping Tip

Experts say open communication about needs, desires, and goals is crucial in moving past stubbornness and into collaboration.

For example, if your parent refuses to talk about assisted living by saying, “I’m not ready,” try to discern what their concerns are and address them honestly and thoughtfully. “Ask them about what the day looks like when they are ready,” Athanas says. “Does that day look like when you have a walker? Does it look like when you stop driving? Does it look like when we have to come over daily to make sure you’ve taken your meds or you’ve eaten?”

If you’re concerned the stubbornness is a sign of dementia, schedule a visit with your loved one’s doctor. If your parent’s stubbornness rears its head again and you struggle to get your loved one to make a doctor’s appointment, Helena Chang Chui with the USC Memory and Aging Center at Keck Medicine of USC offers some tips for getting your loved one to the doctor for an early dementia diagnosis.

 

Dealing with a Negative Elderly Parent?

Does it sometimes feel like you can’t do anything right? Like you’re a verbal punching bag? Perhaps your parent has always been a chronic complainer, but it’s also likely that aging and illness can be the driving factors behind the bitterness.

For example, joint pain can be a common source of discomfort for older adults. Instead of complaining about the pain — which means another trip to the doctor’s office — they may express their frustration and discomfort by criticizing everything around them.

Boredom is another source of frustration for seniors, especially those who live at home alone. If your aging parent feels like they no longer have a sense of purpose — now that they’ve left the workforce, have finished raising their children, and no longer socialize with friends — they may have a more negative mindset.

Other common sources of negativity include urinary tract infections, medications that cause personality changes, and dementia. That’s why it’s so important to communicate with your loved one’s doctor about any changes in mood and behavior.

 

Coping Tip

It is important to remember that anger is often an outward expression of inner fears, and that although the complaints may seem to be hurled in your direction, it often has little if anything to do with you.

If your dad is on a negative rant, Athanas suggests redirecting the conversation to a more positive slant. “When parents go on that negative downward spiral of everything is bad, I think the best way to redirect them is to ask them about something they are grateful for,” he says. “For instance, if your dad has foot neuropathy and walking is a challenge, acknowledge that you can’t fix it and that that’s hard, but then ask him about some of the things he’s grateful for, such as being able to enjoy a hearty meal or that he’s able to read a book.”

If that fails, it’s important to prioritize your mental health and establish reasonable boundaries.

 

Dealing with an Irrational Aging Parent?

Is your dad convinced that your son stole his wallet when you came over to dinner last night? Or perhaps your mom keeps asking when her husband is coming home for dinner, but your dad passed away years ago.

Suspicious or persisting fears that strike family members as irrational, absurd, or ridiculous are often related to underlying cognitive impairment. Although not grounded in reality, the situation is very real to the person with dementia.

 

Coping Tip

If your parent has received a dementia diagnosis, you will see increased problems with communication as the disease progresses.

“For example, they may think you’re the brother instead of the son,” says Carrie Wilson, Director of the Reflections Memory Care Program at The Ivy at Ellington. “Don’t necessarily correct them. The correction brings on embarrassment and frustration. That’s hard for anyone. Who wants to constantly be told you’re wrong?”

Instead, of reality-orienting them, which usually only escalates their behaviors, try to get on their level.

“Live in their world if they get confused,” Wilson says. “Living in their world to give them the best moments — instead of correcting every inaccurate statement —  can make a huge positive aspect in the person’s life with dementia. And it can make your life more enjoyable, too.”

If your parent hasn’t yet received a diagnosis, tell their doctor about what you’re seeing. It might be time to start the testing process.

 

Dealing with a Depressed Elderly Parent?

Your parent might be in their golden years, yet they might also still be struggling with depression. Older adults are at an increased risk of experiencing depression, affecting more than 6.5 million of the 35 million Americans aged 65 or older, according to The National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Maybe your mom has experienced big life changes, such as the death of loved ones, retirement, or declining health, which can sometimes trigger depression. Loneliness, loss of function and ability, medication side effects, and family history can all contribute to depression.

The good news is depression can be treated.

 

Coping Tip

If you notice your loved one exhibiting signs of depression, it is important to talk to them. But keep in mind there is a stigma that surrounds psychological symptoms and mental illness, particularly for their generation.

“It’s important to honor your family member,” says Nancy Ishkanian, Resident Care Director at The Arbors at Stoneham. “Maybe you say something like: ‘It looks like you don’t feel so great right now. I think you could probably feel better. I wonder if there’s a way we could talk to your doctor. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. But I wonder if there’s a way you could feel better.’ That’s hard to argue with.”

Then suggest that your mom see their primary care provider, “especially if she’s had this doctor for 20 years,”  says Karen Detka, Resident Care Director at The Arbors at Westfield. “The older generation always listens to the doctor. If the doctor says, ‘I’m noticing you’re just not your happy self when you come to see me anymore,’ that can really help Mom admit it more easily.”

When your loved one shows signs of these difficult behaviors, practice patience while trying these methods. But if these difficult behaviors become too much or you feel unsafe while caring for your loved one, it may be time to seek additional help.

Depression, dementia, boredom, and social isolation are all signs it’s time to start considering making the move into assisted living. For a closer look at the red flags, download our eBook 7 Warning Signs It’s Time to Make the Move to Assisted Living.

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    Difficult behaviors in elderly adults are very common. They may be an expression of frustration your loved one feels or a symptom of early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s.

    This guide will provide you with skills and knowledge on how to handle difficult behaviors your aging parent may be experiencing.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Becoming a family caregiver can be a rewarding experience. It also has its challenges.

    There are many questions to answer before making the decision to take care of a loved one.

    This guide will provide answers to questions you may have on this topic.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Is your parent or loved one depressed, or just in a bad mood?

    What does medication and illness have to do with depression?

    How can you help? In this guide, you will be provided with answers to the difficult questions you may have about depression.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Has your aging parent recently lost interest in activities they used to enjoy? Have you noticed a change in their mood and behavior?

    This guide will provide you with resources and tools on how to identify depression, what are the common causes of depression, and how to promote mental health in your aging loved one.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Does your loved one need more support than what they are getting? Would they benefit from some assistance with daily activities?

    In this guide, you’ll find answers to the most common questions asked about assisted living.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

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    Where do you start searching for assisted living or memory care communities?

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    Has your dad stopped getting together for lunches or outings with friends or visits with neighbors? Have you stopped enjoying time with your parents because you’re a caregiver?

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    No one ever plans to be sick or disabled, and disasters, man-made or natural, can happen at any time, anywhere.

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    Moving to assisted living is a life-changing event.

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    In this eBook, you’ll learn how to talk with family and friends about caregiving challenges, how to deal with a parent who is resistant to help, how to get more caregiving help from your siblings, and how to keep your job while caregiving.


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    Have you had to cut back your hours at work to care for your mom? Are you worried about administering medications or injections?

    Have you stopped getting together with friends, either because you don’t have the time or you’re too exhausted? Are you becoming the invisible second patient?


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    You’ll learn about the true costs of being a family caregiver, common family conflicts that can occur when caring for parents, and some of the unexpected challenges of caregiving.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

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    In this guide, you’ll learn about the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia, including the early symptoms of dementia; the seven stages of dementia and the symptoms that typically accompany each one; and the signs it’s time to start exploring your memory care options.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    In this guide, you’ll learn about the difference between assisted living and memory care, how health care professionals are trained in dementia care, common features of a memory care community, and questions you should ask when exploring your memory care options.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

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    Navigating adult sibling relationships can be a challenge, but coming together for the sake of your parent is important.

    In this guide, you’ll learn about common sibling conflicts that arise when caring for parents, strategies for getting siblings on board, and where to turn to for help.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Assisted living can be a touchy subject. No matter how you approach it, your parent is likely to have objections to something.

    As you help them transition to a new stage of life, it helps to be prepared with answers to their questions and concerns.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    This checklist will help to make sure you are getting the most out of your visit to The Arbors.

    The list details what important questions to ask during your visit so you are able to make an enlightened choice and find the best assisted living community for your needs.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

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    If you’re unsure what Assisted Living looks like in real life, whether there is a difference with nursing homes or a desire to see how community life unfolds, then this guide is exactly what you need.

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    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

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    Have you decided that assisted living is the best option for your elderly parent, and now are feeling overwhelmed on how to begin your search for the right community?

    This guide will go over what you need to know before you make a decision.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Are you considering assisted living for yourself or a loved one but are hesitant about the cost? Assisted living costs, services and amenities vary greatly among the last and most expensive communities, and costs are higher in some states than others.

    This guide will answer questions you may have about the costs of assisted living and recommend resources to help you pay for it.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Talking to your aging parent about moving to an assisted living community isn’t easy.

    Often, many adult children avoid bringing it up because it can be a sensitive topic.

    This guide will provide you with helpful tips and insight on how to have a productive conversation with your parent and siblings regarding your parent’s future.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Difficult behaviors in elderly adults are very common. They may be an expression of frustration your loved one feels or a symptom of early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s.

    This guide will provide you with skills and knowledge on how to handle difficult behaviors your aging parent may be experiencing.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Becoming a family caregiver can be a rewarding experience. It also has its challenges.

    There are many questions to answer before making the decision to take care of a loved one.

    This guide will provide answers to questions you may have on this topic.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Is your parent or loved one depressed, or just in a bad mood?

    What does medication and illness have to do with depression?

    How can you help? In this guide, you will be provided with answers to the difficult questions you may have about depression.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Has your aging parent recently lost interest in activities they used to enjoy? Have you noticed a change in their mood and behavior?

    This guide will provide you with resources and tools on how to identify depression, what are the common causes of depression, and how to promote mental health in your aging loved one.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Does your loved one need more support than what they are getting? Would they benefit from some assistance with daily activities?

    In this guide, you’ll find answers to the most common questions asked about assisted living.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Where do you start searching for assisted living or memory care communities?

    What qualities in a community should you look for? How do you know you made the right decision?


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Has your dad stopped getting together for lunches or outings with friends or visits with neighbors? Have you stopped enjoying time with your parents because you’re a caregiver?

    Choosing an assisted living community is a big decision. Learn how to find the right one for you and your loved one.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    No one ever plans to be sick or disabled, and disasters, man-made or natural, can happen at any time, anywhere.

    Yet older adults are among the most vulnerable during a crisis. That’s why it’s critical that seniors, and those who care for them, prepare for emergencies.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Moving to assisted living is a life-changing event.

    This guide provides tips and ideas on downsizing, what to pack and how to make the transition smooth for your senior parent.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    In this eBook, you’ll learn how to talk with family and friends about caregiving challenges, how to deal with a parent who is resistant to help, how to get more caregiving help from your siblings, and how to keep your job while caregiving.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Have you had to cut back your hours at work to care for your mom? Are you worried about administering medications or injections?

    Have you stopped getting together with friends, either because you don’t have the time or you’re too exhausted? Are you becoming the invisible second patient?


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    In this guide, you’ll learn about the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia, including the early symptoms of dementia; the seven stages of dementia and the symptoms that typically accompany each one; and the signs it’s time to start exploring your memory care options.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    In this guide, you’ll learn about the difference between assisted living and memory care, how health care professionals are trained in dementia care, common features of a memory care community, and questions you should ask when exploring your memory care options.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Navigating adult sibling relationships can be a challenge, but coming together for the sake of your parent is important.

    In this guide, you’ll learn about common sibling conflicts that arise when caring for parents, strategies for getting siblings on board, and where to turn to for help.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Assisted living can be a touchy subject. No matter how you approach it, your parent is likely to have objections to something.

    As you help them transition to a new stage of life, it helps to be prepared with answers to their questions and concerns.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    A Guide to the Most Common Family Caregiver Challenges Associated with Caring for an Aging Parent.

    You’ll learn about the true costs of being a family caregiver, common family conflicts that can occur when caring for parents, and some of the unexpected challenges of caregiving.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    This checklist will help to make sure you are getting the most out of your visit to The Arbors.

    The list details what important questions to ask during your visit so you are able to make an enlightened choice and find the best assisted living community for your needs.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    If you’re unsure what Assisted Living looks like in real life, whether there is a difference with nursing homes or a desire to see how community life unfolds, then this guide is exactly what you need.

    A guide to discover the Care Team and a Typical Day in Assisted Living.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

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