Overcoming an Aging Parent’s Pride
The parent-child relationship is a dynamic that is hard to change, even in old age (or perhaps especially then). Many of us have elderly parents who are used to being in control. And who could blame anyone for refusing to change their lifestyle?
Dad should take pride in looking back on a life where he was in charge, whether it was at work, home, or elsewhere. But that doesn’t always happen, and there can be negative drawbacks to holding on to such a brazen attitude.
For one, failing to accept help when it’s obviously necessary can make a bad situation worse. I’m sure that your father would rather have taken the necessary steps to prevent a hip fracture than suffer through its painful and frustrating aftermath.
Another drawback can surface in the form of damaging the parent-child relationship. Even as older adults, we are susceptible to our parents’ behaviors. If they set a bad example by being uncooperative and cranky about giving up a small freedom like taking out the trash, many of us–like it or not–can expect to act the same way when we are our parents’ age.
Dr. Barry Jacobs offers some suggestions as to what you can do to help your aging parent or loved one while also being sensitive to his or her prideful ways:
- Empower Your Parents. Emphasize that receiving help can actually be empowering, rather than the opposite. By showing Dad that you’re his ally, perhaps you can convince him that accepting some help can allow him maintain his self-sufficiency, and to live independently for much longer than he could on his own accord.
- Enable Growth. Oftentimes, taking care of an elderly parent allows the family caregiver to personally grow through valuable life experience. And when your aging mother allows you to care for her, she is in turn giving you an opportunity to learn and grow. When Mom refuses your help, Jacobs believes that she is actually depriving you of the aforementioned growth. It’s likely that Mom took care of her parents when they were elderly. Remind her of this and the pride she felt in having done the right thing.
- Remind About Role Models. Throughout every stage of our lives–from childhood, to middle-age, to nearing retirement–we learn by the examples set forth by our parents. When your father is refusing help that obviously could benefit him, remind him that he’s always been one of your role models, and that preparing for the complexities that come with end of life–physical and cognitive decline, etc.–is just another step in your journey together.
Are there any other helpful ways that you can think of to overcome your aging loved one’s pride? Let us know on Twitter or in the comments.
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