Are Your Aging Parents Being Stubborn?
Have you tried to suggest support to your aging parents but made no progress? Do you find that your aging parents do not heed your advice? A 2015 research study has found that many adult children and aging adults perceive parents as being stubborn. That is to say, not only do adult children report their parents as being stubborn, but those parents also self-report acting as such.
“Stubborn,” in this case, is defined as resisting forms of assistance or advice. Adult children may perceive this attitude as very persistent and resistant behavior. They perceive stubbornness a lot more than aging adults do for themselves. In this same study, perceptions of stubbornness varied depending on the quality of the parent/child relationship, the level of disabilities in both parties, and the extent to which children and parents interact with each other. These dynamics could lead to tensions between adult children and their parents who are experiencing more difficulties as they age. Why could this be?
As adults age, and as overall health begins to decline, they may have difficulty doing activities they were previously able to do. These experiences may cast doubt on their perceived abilities, or your loved one may not outwardly acknowledge certain inabilities or disabilities until they get worse. For instance, an aging parent may directly deny that they have difficulty driving to the store because they have done it successfully for so many years. Yet when a task like this eventually becomes an issue, or a problem does arise, this situation may prompt an adult child to suggest some form of assistance or some life changes. And, here, a conflict may emerge. An aging parent may seem stubborn (whether or not they are is hard to prove) but could instead be acting in such a way to preserve aspects of control over their situation. Their identity may be threatened from declining health as their capacity to exert their independence diminishes. A refusal to receive help or persistence in doing a risky activity (for an aging individual) may, therefore, be perceived as stubbornness by many people, especially an adult child who is trying to look out for their parents.
If you have an aging parent who seems resistant to help, it may seem difficult to broach a subject like finding help around the house or considering assisted living. These circumstances require careful communication. Instead of getting frustrated at your parent or aging loved one, recognize that they still have the right to be in control of their life. As opposed to becoming angry at them for not following your advice, try to understand their situation and be empathetic. You can think of gentle ways to suggest help, but beyond this measure, you cannot force them to do anything even if you disagree with them. If there is any chance at making headway, attentive listening and effective communication are the best policies to follow. And most of all, if you do feel obliged to offer advice, then make sure the suggestion is not confrontational and help your loved one feel they have the power to choose what to do in their situation.
Nurse registries like ElderCare at Home can provide certified nursing assistants or home health aides to help your loved one around the house. Visits can be set on your parents own terms. If you have any more questions about what nurse registries can do for your loved ones, then call ElderCare at 800-285-0093 or visit our website!
 Allison R. Heid, et al., “’My Parent is so Stubborn!’—Perceptions of Aging Parents’ Persistence, Insistence, and Resistance,” Journal of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences 71, no. 4 (2015): 1-10.