It is funny how life can completely turn around on us. We spend years listening to our parents -and often ignoring their sage advice – and suddenly we are in a position of trying to listen to our advice. It shouldn’t be surprising that both parents and adult children find this turnabout difficult- in fact, according to a Penn State University study, 77% of respondents said that Mom and Dad simply would not listen. In this blog, we will take a look at some expert advice as to how to navigate the changing roles in your relationship.
We all understand the problem. People tend to get set in their ways, and don’t like other people telling them what to do. But an adult child may realize that their parent is approaching an age that living independently could be unsafe; driving may be ill-advised; or handling their own medication is too difficult. How do we speak respectfully to our parents and make them listen?
Expert Advice for Talking to Aging Parents
- Exhibit Empathy: Aging is a hard concept to accept for everyone. Many seniors are living with dementia, anxiety or depression on a daily basis. They may react negatively to what they sense is someone trying to take control away from them. “Realizing that your parents’ autonomy is important to them can be beneficial as well,” says social worker Suzanne Modigliani, a Massachusetts-based aging life care specialist. Suzanne suggests evaluating what may really be going on, and try to put yourself in their shoes. Are they confused and suffering with dementia, or simply being stubborn to hold onto their autonomy? By determining what is motivating their behavior, you can craft empathetic solutions.
- Practice Acceptance: the fact is, you can’t control your parents. If they will not listen to your advice, that is their choice (provided of course, that they are not a danger to themselves or others.) Allowing them to make their own decisions as long as they are able – even if you don’t agree – can lower the stress levels of the relationship.
- Choose When to Speak Up: You’ll also want to pick your battles – save your advice for those decisions which are truly important, or that affect health and safety. If your parents don’t feel nagged about every detail of their life, they are more likely to listen to you when you do provide feedback. Focus on medications or necessary living arrangements, and let them choose to watch reality TV if it makes them happy. And when you do decide to talk to them, be conversational, not “parental”.
- Treat Them Like the Adults They Are: One of the most disparaging things we can do is treat our parents, who have spent a lifetime caring for themselves and others, as children. Stubborn parents are not the same as stubborn children – parents are autonomous and have earned respect. While it can be tempting to threaten a unilateral move if you think your parent is being irrational, you should never “pull rank.” It will simply put them on the defensive. Instead, offer solutions and compromises that reflect their capability.
- Give Yourself a Break: Even those offering expert advice admit to having issues with dealing with their parents. Sometimes all you can do is stand by, watch closely, and be ready to step in with assistance if necessary. If you find yourself feeling angry or frustrated, find ways to alleviate your own stress. When you are on edge, they will often sense it and dig in to their position. Plus, no one wants a tense relationship with someone they love.
If the time is approaching to consider assisted living for your loved one, a practical way to come to agreement is to involve them in the decision-making process. While you can do the initial research, take them to visit a few options and allow them to choose the best home for them. Often, simply visiting the facility, understanding how they will be living, and being able to choose their own home will make them happier to make the move.
A Banyan Residence is happy to give you a private tour. Call us today for compassionate assisted living or memory care in Venice.