IN AN IDEAL WORLD every situation you encounter with your parent family and siblings is seamless.  Your parents are cooperative and grateful for what you do, and your siblings appreciate your efforts and pitch in cheerfully to help. 

But we know that the world is not always so tidy and supportive. Probably no family works smoothly all the time, and many families are troubled by strife of various kinds.

In Stages of Senior Care: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Making the Best Decisions, authors and Home Instead Senior Care® founders Lori and Paul Hogan take a look at some of the roadblocks you may encounter in your role as a caregiver:

Antagonisms Can Get Worse

If anything, old antagonisms are likely to get worse in the urgency, and sometimes emergency, of care giving.

How do you prepare yourself for battles that may come?

  • Try to construct a philosophical framework for dealing with difficult family situations in general.
  • Recognize that not all of the friction between you and your parents is the result of clashing personalities or expectations or has anything to do with all of you as individuals. Old age is accompanied  by at least some pain and if not by outright fatigue, some weariness.

Advice on Some Common Parent-Child Conflicts

Stages of Senior Care: Your Guide to Making the Best Decisions looks at some tough situations that have come up again and again in our experience working with caregivers and their families and offers ways to deal with these situations.

Your Father Won’t Surrender the Car Keys

This is one of the most frequent family dilemmas.  Your first step could be to accompany him while he drives so you see firsthand what could be causing his accidents.  His problem could simply be a loss of hearing or a vision problem that may be correctable.

Your Parents Refuse to Make a Will

Everyone should have a will.  Those who fail to execute wills and companion documents, like powers of attorney and advance directives with health care proxies, leave their children frustrated and possibly fighting bitterly as well.  Seniors neglect to prepare such important documents for many reasons.

Your Mother is Suspicious of Strangers—and Even Caregivers

For seniors, almost any type of change can be very frightening.  So don’t be surprised if your mother is un-receptive to the idea of allowing a caregiver—most likely a stranger, at least in the beginning – into her home.

When Paranoia Points to Something More

Sometimes, however, the fear may become paranoia, which can be a symptom of Alzheimer’s.  if that’s the case, acknowledge your parent’s feelings and remain calm and understanding.  Remember that if your mother is exhibiting paranoia (or any other symptom) associated with Alzheimer’s, she’s not being deliberately difficult; it’s just that her illness is interfering with her ability to determine and control her behaviors.

4 Ways to Cope in a Strained Relationship

If you have had a difficult relationship with your mother or father all your life, unfortunately the chances are that that it will only become more strained as you become his or her caregiver.  Here are some suggestions  for coping:

  1. Talk it through. Address the problem directly as soon as it arises.
  2. Prepare to have your buttons pushed. Maybe your mother habitually compares you unfavorably with your siblings or blames you for a failed marriage.  Get ready in advance for such a jibe – and quickly change the subject.
  3. Try something different. If sitting and talking with your mother generally leads to an argument, look for an alternative. Offer to weed her garden or cook her a special meal – something helpful that will also give both of you space.
  4. Set boundaries. Be clear about how much you’re willing and able to do for your father and stick to it.

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Phone: 503-747-HOME (4663), Mobile: 503-964-4877


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