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Recovering The SelfA Journal of Hope and Healing


Switch Roles: Adjusting To A Rebellious Older Parent

Guest Blogger: Jonathan Rosenfeld old man

It may be shocking for caretakers to hear one of their aging parents say something that may be perceived as ‘rude’. Perhaps you are trying to discuss their finances but they refuse to discuss the situation. These situations may appear strange at first, but they are likely. What is the alternative? Letting problems go unchecked as if nothing is happening? That certainly does not seem realistic either.

How you can adjust

For most children, taking on the new role of “parenting your parent” can lead to both anxiety and stress. If you want to learn how to adjust to this new role as best you can, there are five distinct strategies that you can take. They might not all be applicable, but you can probably use several of them in order to minimize your own frustrations.

  • Accept that your parent is aging – This is not something that will go away or become easier for that matter. The behavior of an aging person can change dramatically because of memory loss, dementia, and other conditions. The sooner you accept that this will not change, the easier it may become to learn to accept it. Realize that this may not be easy to come to terms with, but also realize that this is the current situation in which you find yourself.
  • Start collecting information – If your parent displays red flags, signs of trouble, it is important to start collecting information as quickly as possible. Is there a healthcare proxy set up? A trust? Durable power of attorney? Where are these located now? When was the last time they were updated? It may fall upon you to take these over one day. You need to have a decent idea where bank accounts are kept in the event that you need to access financial information.
  • Take action if needed – If you find that your parent is a danger to him- or herself or others during activities such as buying groceries, paying bills, or driving, it is important that you step in. Again, there is no easy way to have this discussion (though you can have it diplomatically), but it is simply something that has to be done.
  • Do not expect logic – Oftentimes children make the mistake of assuming their parents will listen to logical arguments about why it is that they need help. Remember that for the parents, it is not about logic; it is about the fear of losing control. Respect that feeling and acknowledge it.
  • Avoid being reactive – Unfortunately, parents may become upset with the limits or “rules” that you are setting. You do not have to engage in an argument; just do what you need to do. Especially if your parent is dealing with memory problems, there is no real sense in explaining the situation anyway; they may forget it later. This does not mean you have to be rude, but you can draw a line between rude and clear.

The transition can be a difficult period that leads to frustration, anger, and even sadness within yourself. If you make this about you, you will only add to your own stress level. Remember that the journey may be difficult, but the alternative is certainly not something that most children would want for their parents.

About the Author

Jonathan Rosenfeld is an attorney who regularly advocates on behalf of families who have suffered the loss or injury to a loved one in a nursing home, hospital, or assisted living facility. Learn more about Jonathan’s work and writings by visiting http://www.nursinghomesabuseblog.com

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