Everyone handles aging a bit differently. While we all may hope to age gracefully, complex medical conditions, pain, cognitive trouble and other unique challenges can sometimes make aging incredibly difficult. If you are finding that your aging parents are becoming a bit more—ahem—difficult in their older years, you are not alone. Even the most kind adults can become angry, stubborn or downright rude due to the litany of obstacles that aging can sometimes bring.
Your main goal is to successfully support your aging parents without causing damage or distress to your relationship or your own mental health. Here are a few ways you can make sure your aging loved one is safe and as healthy as possible, even if they are not the most receptive to your help.
Redirect and Validate
For many seniors, a feeling of helplessness or sense of being out of control can lead to extra anxiety or anger issues. When your aging loved ones begin to express repeated concerns, like calling every day to ask why no one has visited yet, stick to validating their feelings and then redirecting the conversation to something more positive.
Often used in dementia care, this tactic can be useful in many situations for people of all ages. For the example above, a good response might be, “It sounds like you are feeling a bit lonely today, mom. I can’t come visit you today, but I would love to talk after work when I can focus on you. I’ll call you at 5:30. Did you see if your peony bush is blooming yet this morning?” Validate those feelings of loneliness, offer a solution when possible and then redirect to something more positive. It takes some practice, but soon this will become second nature for you; it gives you both the chance to end the conversation on a happier, less frustrated, note.
Get a Second Opinion
When it comes to having the same argument again and again, try stepping out of the role of “bad guy” or “concerned daughter.” Instead, enlist the help of an outside source that your aging loved one trusts, and take the conversation to them for their opinion. For example, if you and your dad disagree about whether he should be driving at nighttime, stop arguing and bring up the concern during his next doctor appointment. After each of you presents your concerns, his doctor can offer her opinion on safe driving practices. Most doctors who serve seniors are more than willing to step into this role and give advice that can be hard to swallow coming from family members. Doctors can also determine if other underlying medical issues causing the anxiety, anger or personality changes; dementia can be a culprit, as can mood disorders, and can be treated accordingly.
Don’t Do This Alone
You shouldn’t have to handle an angry, anxious or frustrated aging loved one on your own. Enlist the help of your family and friends to be your support system. You may even consider seeing a therapist a few times per month to sift through your feelings about your situation. Your self-care routines are imperative to keeping you healthy.
Working with an unenthusiastic ager can be frustrating and mentally taxing. However, with a few of our strategies, you can emerge with your relationship and sanity intact. Good luck!