Have You Crossed the Line Between Caring for and Controlling Your Aging Parents?

Aging ParentsIt is an amazing feeling to know that you are protected, safe and cared for. Mothers and fathers thrive on making sure their children are enveloped inside the comfort of understanding their needs will be fulfilled, giving the safety net that permits them the self-assurance to explore the world all around them. Yet there comes a point in all children’s lives when the longing for freedom overshadows the benefit of protection, and they have to discover firsthand what it actually means to stumble, fall and get back up again independently.

These kinds of protective instincts usually trigger once again for adult children towards aging parents. We would like to assist them to minimize risks, to make sure 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 really careful, which can result in feelings of anger along with resentment on the part of the senior parents.

According to 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 explored the effect of stubbornness in seniors’ relationships with their adult children. While the seniors were less inclined to rate themselves as appearing stubborn, their younger family members more frequently mentioned stubbornness being an issue. The key for adult children is in realizing their parents’ reason behind digging in their heels to hold onto their freedom and autonomy, and to stay away from arguing and creating an attitude of defensiveness. Clear, open and truthful communication among both parties can go a long way towards smoothing the waters and ensuring that each individual is listened to and understood.

So what is the simplest way to take care of our aging parents without attempting to control them? A large dose of patience, respect and empathy will go a long way. Positioning yourself in the older adult’s shoes and knowing the need for independence makes it possible for adult children to step back, instead of stepping in. Allow the additional time an older adult needs to accomplish a task, instead of doing it for the person. Always search for opportunities to show the senior you value his or her input and recommendations. For more suggestions like this, contact the Kalamazoo senior care experts at Home Sweet Home In-Home Care at 269-224-1683. We’d love to provide assistance for your caregiving needs in the Kalamazoo area.

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