What to do when your desire to help is rejected?
Do you remember when you were in your your early 20s and your parents were giving unsolicited advice on how you should be living your life? What type of job to take, where you should live, what you should drive, and all you could think or say was, I’m a grown adult – let me make my own decisions! No, just me?
Well, your parents have been full-grown adults for a long time now, making their own decisions and taking care of their own needs, and while you just want to help, sometimes, that help feels intrusive.
Here are the top complaints I have heard from my senior friends that I thought I’d share so you don’t make the same mistakes:
- Don’t treat them like a child! While this seems obvious, sometimes, when we take on the caregiver role, we slip back into the parent role and start talking to our parents like a child. Are you nagging mom to take a jacket when you go out? Do you go through their things without asking or speak over them at a medical appointment? Of course, it is important to get the information you need or make sure they are safe and secure, but it is still just as important to treat them as an adult, who has been managing just fine for decades.
- Don’t take over their life! Sometimes in our quest to make things easier, we take away all of the activities that they have been doing just fine on their own. I had a client who had early stage dementia and loved to grocery shop and cook. Rather than taking her with them on shopping trips, her daughters would shop for her and bring prepared food over to “make things easier.” She hated it. She enjoyed cooking and picking out her own food. Even worse, she had stopped eating chicken after her kids moved out and they kept bringing chicken dishes without asking her preferences so she just threw it away.
- Don’t forget they are people. In the never-ending day-to-day management, sometimes, all we talk to our parents about are what kind of medication they’re taking, how they’re feeling, is there anything new we should tell the doctor. They become more a medical case than a complex, interesting individual who has a lot to share. Tell them your problems and joys. Let them tell you their observations and stories. Try to maintain the normalcy.
While your new role is especially challenging for all, take advantage of the time you have with them. Unfortunately, my grandparents passed away when I was in my early 20s and i didn’t appreciate the wisdom and history they had to share. I still regret not getting my grandmother’s Easter cookie recipe every time I try a new one I discovered online!