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Family Caregiving for Seniors - SageCorner Blog

Aging Parents Won’t Listen

by Deah on Thursday, September 13, 2018 6:12 AM

Never thought the role would be reversed such as it is. I remember my parents reprimanding me when I did not listen to them. It was not often as my parents were strict and we knew there was going to be consequences. Now that Mom and Dad are well into their 80’s and suffering from multiple medical conditions, the roles are reversed but they know there are NO consequences. They could not care less about what is best for them at this age. With the love we have for them, it is really hard to witness this attitude. There is a part of me that understands their position, but another part asks, “Why would you not want a quality life for the years you have left?”

Experts call these type of situations “role reversal.” If my parents felt as frustrated in my younger days as I do in this reversal, I am so sorry Mom and Dad. It is agonizing to watch our parents make such decisions that are not in their best interest. They have taken quit a few spills and are so lucky they have only come away with a few bumps and bruises. The walker is there for a reason. Why not use it and use it properly?

I found these situations are not just a difficult position for us but a common dilemma that adult children face with aging parents. I also found some suggestions that I thought would be helpful.

  • First and probably the most important, access the matter at hand and decide how important it really is. If it is a safety issue that is one thing but if it is just an irritating matter and less consequential then maybe you should think about picking your battles.
  • Accept the situation. When you have tried your best, then it may be time to accept that they are grown adults and have the right to make their own decision, even if it is a poor one. Sometimes it is best to let go and accept the situation. I have found this to be especially hard to do. It is important to remember to treat them like the adults they are.
  • Stay calm. Our parents are very aware that they are losing function but we see a reluctance to admit it. Instead of preaching to the choir again, begin a conversation with questions as to why they think certain things are happening or why are they refusing certain things that would be helpful. This could get them to reflect differently on the situation. If they feel they are being criticized or judged they are going to be on the defensive. We can all recognize that defense mechanism. Be sensitive and avoid any power struggles. Be sure you are having these challenging but important conversations on days when both you and your parents are feeling relaxed rather than depressed or anxious. Your timing could make all the difference.
  • When trying to come up with solutions be sure to focus on the benefits as well as the consequences. If a quick fix is not critical, take the time to check out various options, pointing out how these options will benefit everyone. Be sure the parent(s) are heavily involved and let them feel that they are in control and making the decision. If you feel it necessary, involve their medical team. Sometimes after we have preached until we are out of breath, then their doctor mentions the same thing, it is suddenly good advice that they are willing to heed.

It is so hard knowing that we can prevent or could have prevented something bad from happening. Agonizing when we had made a suggestion that could have helped and it was ignored. It is important that we not beat ourselves up over what could or could not have been prevented.

Blogs Parent Separator Deah Bowes
aging parent
elderly parents
role reversal

Tips and ideas to help care for a senior loved one at home.


Lori Paterno, M.Ed. Has a Masters Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling From Penn State University.  She has over 20 years professional experience in Human Services, Counseling, and Education.

Lori Paterno, M.Ed. Has a Masters Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling From Penn State University.  She has over 20 years professional experience in Human Services, Counseling, and Education. 
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