Practical Tips For Dealing With Tough Situations with Aging Parents on

Practical Tips For Dealing With Tough Situations with Aging Parents

Practical Tips For Dealing With Tough Situations with Aging Parents

When you are an adult and are a care partner for a parent, it usually presents a unique set of challenges, especially when faced with a parent focused on the negative. Understandably for them, they're often going through serious life changes that may lead to despair or feelings of depression. While you might see some "easy" solutions by changing a habit, they might recognize that as a change they don't feel they should have to make. This may lead them to feel a host of "negative" emotions despite your willingness to help.

 Understanding and navigating these waters is truly difficult, but with the right strategies, it's possible to create a more positive environment for both you and your loved ones. In my work as an occupational therapist, I've recognized that my patients can more easily take critical feedback when it comes from me as a professional. But when the same advice on daily habit changes comes from the adult child, it can be a whole other ballgame! Maddening? I know! It's even happened a few times with my own parents!

 Trust me, this is a constant and true across cultures. It's human nature intertwined with the unique roles parents and children have - no matter your ages. So don't feel discouraged. I've got some tips that can smooth out that communication and help make it easier to work together to find solutions for life!

Key Takeaways

  • Understanding the roots of negativity is crucial for effective communication.
  • Setting healthy boundaries protects emotional well-being for both parties.
  • Engaging in positive activities can redirect negative energy.
  • Knowing when and how to seek professional help is essential.

Understanding the Roots of Negativity in Aging Parents

Negativity from your parents, who are getting older often stems from a mix of health issues, loss of independence, and social isolation. Recognizing these factors is the first step towards empathy and effective communication. It's crucial to understand that this negativity isn't a reflection of their love or appreciation for you, but rather a manifestation of their frustrations and fears.

 We can approach conversations with a deeper sense of understanding and patience when we first identify root causes. This could be things like chronic pain that may not be visible or the grief of losing lifelong friends. This approach not only helps in addressing the immediate negativity but also in building a stronger, more empathetic connection together.

Communication Techniques That Work

Effective communication with aging parents requires patience, empathy, and active listening. Makes total sense, right? But easier said than done when situations are new, stressful or feel unstable. So be proactive in choosing the best time and setting for discussions. Prioritize being in a calm and private environment, hopefully that's outside of the heat of the moment. For example, if chronic pain is flaring right now, it might not be the right time to talk about the preventative actions they could take to limit flare-ups. But the day after it's gotten under control could be a great time to talk about ways to prevent it from flaring up in the future.

 Begin conversations with positive affirmations and avoid confrontational language. "I'm so glad your pain is getting under control today! I wonder if we could figure out together somethings we could do to limits the flare ups in the future."

 Techniques such as reflective listening can validate people's feelings, showing that you truly understand their perspective. Using this method, it's helpful to use "I" statements to express your feelings without placing blame, such as "I feel worried when I hear you say you're always in pain." These strategies encourage open dialogue and can pave the way for more positive interactions.

Setting Healthy Boundaries

Establishing healthy boundaries is vital for maintaining your emotional well-being while caring for others. It involves clearly communicating your limits regarding what you can and can't do. Boundaries might include specific visiting hours, or deciding which tasks you're willing to help with. It's important to communicate these boundaries respectfully and consistently, while also making sure there's room for flexibility in case of an emergency. Remember, setting boundaries isn't an act of selfishness - it's a necessary step for self-care, enabling you to provide better support for your loved ones.

 And if you want to hear that from an expert, check out this CareLab podcast episode where we talked all about boundaries with Lisa Kendall, a social worker, educator, and mentor specializing in caregiving.

Strategies for Managing Your Own Emotions

No matter how smooth the relationship with your parent is, caregiving can be emotionally taxing. Prioritizing self-care, including physical activity, adequate rest, and engaging in activities you enjoy, is essential for managing stress. It may sound cliche' but it truly is important to seek support from friends, a therapist, or caregiver support groups to navigate your emotions healthily. The way you seek support and reassurance isn't what matters - it's just that you get connected and engage with the support that matters to you. Recognizing signs of caregiver burnout and taking proactive steps to address those signs guarantees that you can continue providing care. So giving yourself rest and outlets isn't a nice-to-have; it's a must-have.

Redirecting Negativity into Positive Activities

Redirecting negativity into positive activities involves identifying and encouraging hobbies, social outings, or exercises that your aging parent enjoys. This proactive approach helps shift their focus from negative thoughts or behaviors by engaging them in fulfilling and enjoyable activities. For example, introducing your parent to a local crafting group or a gentle yoga class can provide them with both a sense of community and physical benefits. Regular participation in these activities can lead to significant improvements in their mood and overall outlook. Engaging in enjoyable tasks naturally elevates one's spirits and encourages a more positive mindset.

 Moreover, engaging in these activities together can strengthen your bond and improve relational dynamics. Shared experiences that are meaningful to you both, whether they're simple walks in the park, attending a music concert, or joining a book club, create opportunities for interaction and communication. These shared moments don't have a price tag because they not only help in alleviating feelings of isolation and loneliness your parent might experience but also enhance mutual understanding and appreciation.

Getting Professional Help and Resources

Sometimes, professional help may be necessary to address the roots of negativity in aging parents. This can include counseling or therapy, where they can express their feelings in a safe environment, or medical evaluation to manage pain or chronic conditions effectively. Support groups offer a platform to share experiences and coping strategies, providing both you and your parents with insights and encouragement. Remember, seeking a mental health professional's help is a sign of strength and commitment to the well-being of both you and your loved ones.

Call to Action

If you're seeking support and assistance in navigating the challenges of caring for older parents, use our tools at AskSAMIE. Our platform is designed to offer guidance and support to caregivers, helping you find the best solutions for your unique situation.

Caring for older parents who are struggling with negativity can be challenging, but with an intentional approach, it's possible to create a more positive and supportive environment for both you and your loved ones.

Back to blog

Brandy Archie, OTD, OTR/L, CLIPP

Dr. Archie received her doctorate in occupational therapy from Creighton University. She is a certified Living in Place Professional with past certifications in low vision therapy, brain injury and driving rehabilitation.  Dr. Archie has over 15 years of experience in home health and elder focused practice settings which led her to start AskSAMIE, a curated marketplace to make aging in place possible for anyone, anywhere! Answer some questions about the problems the person is having and then a personalized cart of adaptive equipment and resources is provided.

She's a wife, mother of 3 and a die-hard Kansas City Chiefs fan! Connect with her on Linked In or by email anytime.

Want more helpful articles?

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter with helpful hints for caring for a loved one, new problem solving products and discounts on services you need!