How Long we Tolerate the Parental Stubbornness ?
‘At this age we are a nuisance to others. They are doing their best. Why can’t you behave nicely’, a gentle reminder from 82 year old Vasudevan to his fellow inmate in our care home. 76 year old Seethamma is wheel chair bound past 3 years and lives in our care facility. A retiree from the agricultural university as a professor made her think that others are all subservient to her whims and fancies. Her ‘arrogance’ has illuminated her personality into a person whom no one can no longer bear to be around. She has again managed to alienate everyone around her with her insults and insensitivity. She is nasty and uncooperative with the aids (who are wonderful) and complains, complains, complains about everyone, everything and blames everyone for even the air she breathes.
Many of our client’s grown up children who come for counseling complain about Parental stubbornness. Adult children are finding that father doesn’t always know best when it comes to his driving, diet, housing, caregiving, health, medication or other important issues.
Meera Jagannathan, a 46-year-old program analyst currently living in Ocean, NJ, is thinking of writing a book on parental stubbornness. Her parents were living in an upscale area in Indiranagar with all the possible support systems. “What made them sell the house in Indiranagar is still a mystery. They never consulted with me or my sister before this crucial decision. We begged them to move near to another house which has ground floor rooms instead they moved into an apartment complex to the 2nd floor. They invested wrongly and now their finances also in a mess. My mother is wheel chair bound, due to arthritis past several years. They refused to pay decent salaries to domestic helps so nobody stays with them more than one month’.
My parents’ life decisions have greatly impacted me and I am very resentful,” says Meera Jagannathan. “I love my mother, but I am at my wit’s end. My father somehow is a reasonable person but my mother’s decisions are supreme. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times my husband and I have suggested options to improve my parents’ quality of life and they have turned us down. I feel like we could open a senior care business like you or write a book, weighing the options because of all the programs, aid and other things we have looked into for them. My elderly mother is becoming mean, hateful and unreasonable. How can I deal with this?”
As a social gerontology consultant, past several years, Judith Parnes (NJ) concedes it as a knotty issue. But it is real and a growing concern, like Meera’s mother’s behavior and that of other older adults who insist on acting a certain way and, as a result, are labeled as stubborn personalities. Judy started learning how aging parents often respond to advice or help from their adult children by “insisting, resisting or persisting in their ways or opinions.”
"My mother is driving me crazy!" The oft-repeated phrase is uttered (or screamed) by caregivers everywhere who are caring for elderly parents. As social gerontologists we come across many such harassed adult children detailing about their perils and struggles of dealing with the difficult behavior of their aged parents. Those of us who are caring for old parents are often bewildered by the crazy unrealistic attitude and decisions -- and by their seemingly stubborn refusal to follow any advice. We shake our heads over their obsession with the past, their caution, and the snail pace with which they make decisions and move through the world. As much as we love our parents, dealing with them can often be fraught with tension and frustrating, as we try to bridge a communications gap as yawning as any we've experienced with rebellious toddlers or teenagers. Most of us give-up after many attempts.
How to deal with them and their scripted predicament? Dodging is not a solution. We cannot allow the situations to snowball. Our Past experiences as practicing social gerontologists, taught us that there is no middle path, either we go with them or we enforce a new code of conduct in old age. Can we yield to their unrealistic demands, lest we allow them to harm themselves.
Many old parents try doing things which they are not supposed to do. Ram Iyer is hyper active even in his 80’s and disregarding his infirmity he climbed up a small tree to prune it. It was his nemesis. Unfortunately his body did not comply with his mind. He felt giddy and suffered TBA. ‘Had he been listening to my mother, not to be adventurous in the later years, he could have avoided this fatality. This mishap has impacted our lives very badly’, a spasm of anger and pain contorted Lalitha’s face while explaining the struggle of coma care.
As people age and their health diminish, their attitudes about life and their care often change drastically. This can cause your elderly loved ones to start exhibiting pretty bad behavior that may or may not be directed at you. Age and illness can intensify longstanding personality traits in some unpleasant ways: An irritable person may become enraged, an impatient person demanding and impossible to please. Unfortunately, the person taking care of the elderly parent is often the target.
If you are a caregiver for an elderly loved one, then you probably have faced the brunt of a few bad behavior days, but how far? Universally accepted norm is to face it and to accommodate. We have a different confronting approach, which may be unconventional. As the primary care giver, you need to express your displeasure and tell them directly that it is causing pain and uneasiness. Make the parents understand the unpleasant behavior is causing heartburn and embarrassment to others and need to have control over it. It is sure that all these days you listened to them but make them understand it is time to have a role reversal. We suggest the adult children to be more stern and tough in their dealings with older parents, on the contrary, a docile approach can only exacerbate.
You are not stony hearted or uncaring. Indeed you are parenting the parent, so a little bit disciplining is obligatory.