Caring for Elderly Parents the Right Way – Playing Offense vs. Defense

Feeling safe, protected and cared for is so wonderful. Fathers and mothers thrive on making sure their kids are surrounded within the comfort of recognizing their needs will be fulfilled, offering the safety net that allows them the self-confidence to explore the world all around them. Yet there comes a stage in all children’s lives when the craving for independence outweighs the benefit of protection, and they’ve got to discover directly just what it means to stumble, fall and get back up again independently.

These kinds of protective instincts typically activate once again for adult children caring for an elderly parents. We wish to help them to reduce risks, to ensure that they’re protected from harm. However at the same time, it’s not difficult to fall into a pattern of overprotectiveness if we’re not careful, which can lead to feelings of bitterness along with resentment on the part of the senior parents.

As stated by professor of human development and family studies at Pennsylvania State University Steven Zarit, “One of the scariest things to people as they age is that they don’t feel in control anymore. So if you tell your dad not to go out and shovel snow, you assume that he’ll listen. It’s the sensible thing. But his response will be to go out and shovel away … It’s a way of holding on to a life that seems to be slipping back.”

A recent study looked into the impact of stubbornness in older adults’ relationships with their adult children. While the elders were less inclined to rate themselves as coming across as stubborn, their younger loved ones more regularly mentioned stubbornness as an issue. The important thing for adult children is in being familiar with their senior parents’ basis for digging in their heels to hold onto their freedom and autonomy, and to keep away from arguing and producing a mindset of defensiveness. Clear, open and honest communication among both sides can go far towards smoothing the waters and making certain everybody is heard and understood.

So what exactly are the best methods for caring for elderly parents without seeking to control them? A large dose of patience, respect and empathy can go far. Positioning yourself in the older adult’s shoes and knowing the importance of self-sufficiency makes it possible for adult children to step back, as opposed to stepping in. Allow the extra time an older adult needs to finish a task, as opposed to doing the work for the individual. Always try to find opportunities to show the older person you value his or her suggestions and advice when caring for an elderly parent. For more suggestions about offering care that doesn’t cross the line, contact CareWorks Health Services in the Orange County area by clicking here or calling (949) 859-4700.