Your aging parent makes decisions that you think are not in her best interests. You talk with her about it, but she digs in her heels and persists in the behavior. Even when she suffers adverse consequences, she stubbornly continues, as if to spite you. Sometimes you may wonder who is the parent and who is the child. Experts have some advice on what to do when an aging loved one won’t take your advice.
Oops, I Did It Again
Your older parent repeatedly does something that makes you wonder what he was thinking. You have talked with him about this before and he knew better. Nonetheless, he did what he wanted again and you had to pick up the pieces.
Let’s say your parents decide to move 1,000 miles away from you to a two-story house, even though they have fallen several times. They are in their eighties and have multiple health issues that make them medically fragile, yet they refuse to accept outside help. Every time one of them falls and ends up in the hospital, you drop what you are doing and jump on an airplane to help. If they would move into an assisted living center near you, things would be better for both them and you. However, they refuse to do so.
Try to Figure Out the Motive
There are many potential reasons why an aging parent might behave like this. Some commons motivations in this situation are:
- She is trying to prove that she is still independent. Even making the wrong decision can feel gratifying to a person, who feels she is losing control over her life. If you have become over-controlling, your parent might want to push back. Make sure you do not treat your aging parents like infants. They did manage to rear you and took care of themselves for many decades without you telling them what to do.
- He wants attention. Elderly people are often lonely. If one of your parents dies, do not be surprised if the surviving parent expects you to fill the gap of missing attention, whether he is aware of this assumption or not. If he does not get as much of your time as he wants, he might escalate things and do something careless. If this behavior results in him getting injured, you will rush to the hospital and he will get the attention he desires.
- She has always behaved like this, but she used to be able to deal with the consequences by herself. Now that you have to step in, you realize how disruptive her choices can be.
- He is experiencing cognitive decline. He might not be making poor decisions intentionally. He might be suffering the ravages of time, or be in the early stages of dementia.
How to Keep Your Aging Parent’s Choices from Over-Stressing You
Dealing with difficult people can be a challenge. If understanding the cause of the behavior does not help to solve the problem for you, consider these strategies:
- Pick your battles. If you are not likely to care about it five years from now, just smile and ignore the behavior.
- Try a guilt trip. If the issue is critical and nothing else works, use a good old-fashioned head game, such as encouraging your parent to quit smoking for the sake of the grandchildren.
- Shrug your shoulders. Your parents are adults. They have the right to make their own choices, even if you do not agree with them. Accept the fact that sometimes things will go wrong and all you can do is love them. Realize that, at the end of the day, the only behavior you can completely control is your own.
In some situations, you might need to talk with an elder law attorney about obtaining guardianship over your aging parent.
A Place for Mom “8 Expert Tips for When Aging Parents Won’t Listen.” (accessed September 28, 2018 https://www.aplaceformom.com/blog/2-25-15-expert-tips-when-parents-wont-listen/