Feeling safe, protected and cared for is so wonderful. Fathers and mothers thrive on ensuring that their children are enveloped in the comfort of understanding their needs will be fulfilled, giving the safety net that allows them the self-confidence to explore the world around them. But there comes a phase in all children’s lives when the craving for independence outweighs the benefit of protection, and they have to experience directly what it really means to stumble, fall and get back up again on their own.
These types of protective instincts oftentimes activate once more for adult children towards elderly parents. We want to help them to decrease risks, to ensure they are protected from harm. However while doing so, it’s very easy to fall into a pattern of overprotectiveness if we’re not careful, which can result in feelings of bitterness along with resentment on the part of the senior parents.
As stated by Steven Zarit, professor of human development and family studies at Pennsylvania State University, “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 impact of stubbornness in older adults’ relationships with their adult children. While the seniors were less likely to rate themselves as acting stubborn, their younger members of the family more frequently noted stubbornness as an issue. The key for adult children is in being familiar with their senior parents’ reason for digging in their heels to hold onto their freedom and autonomy, and to refrain from arguing and creating an attitude of defensiveness. Clear, open and truthful communication between both parties can go far towards smoothing the waters and making certain each person is listened to and fully understood.
So what exactly is the easiest way to look after our elderly parents without seeking to control them? A healthy dosage of patience, respect and empathy will go a long way. Positioning yourself in the senior’s shoes and understanding the importance of self-sufficiency lets adult children step back, rather than step in. Allow the additional time an older adult needs to accomplish a task, instead of doing it for the individual. Always search for opportunities to show the senior you enjoy his or her suggestions and recommendations. For further tips on offering care that doesn’t cross the line, contact Sheila’s Angels In Home Care of Houston at (281) 661-8808.