Aging Options

A Different Approach Can Help You Deal with a Stubborn Parent

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If you’re caring for an aging parent or parents, chances are almost 100% that you’ve either had to deal with Mom or Dad’s stubbornness, or you will someday.

None of us wants to be a burden to our loved ones. But as our parents age, their physical frailty and possible loss of mental acuity put them at greater risk for injury. Try to tell them that, however, and your pleas to “Be reasonable” fall on deaf ears. After all, no matter how old Mom or Dad gets, you’re still their child.

Besides, pride and embarrassment often cause aging parents to refuse to hear something they don’t want to hear – a trait common to all of us. If it’s time for your mother or father to make a major life decision – to stop driving, hire in-home care, or move to a retirement home or assisted living facility – there’s bound to be resistance.

Recently we read this short article on the website of Forbes magazine, written by an expert and blogger on aging named Carolyn Rosenblatt. The title caught our attention immediately: “How to Handle a Stubborn Aging Parent.”  As she puts it, one of the most common complaints she hears is, “My mom won’t listen, and won’t get help and she can barely take care of herself.  What am I supposed to do?” (Since she was writing this right after Christmas 2015, Rosenblatt points out that it’s often during the holidays when families gather that some of these difficult, frustrating confrontations take place.)

As Rosenblatt describes it, the usual conversation starts out with a negative approach: Mom or Dad is getting frail or unsteady and needs assistance. The adult child confronts Mom or Dad with the problem – “You need help.” This generates an immediate and typically negative, defensive reaction: “I’m fine. I can take care of myself.”

But Rosenblatt offers a different approach: make it your problem, not theirs. You know they don’t want to be a burden to you. You know they don’t want you to worry. Couch your conversation in those terms. After all, what parent would want their children to worry?

As you broach the subject, don’t generalize. Instead make specific suggestions about the kind of help or other changes that would put your mind at ease. Offer to do the research but let Mom or Dad feel they’re in control of the decisions. Instead of reason and logic, it might be more effective to appeal to the emotional benefit they’ll be giving you, their child, by making the right decision.

Does this work? Rosenblatt tried it on her own stubborn mother-in-law. After finally accepting that she did need help, this proud woman was heard to comment, “I’m doing this because I didn’t want to become a burden to my children.”

Remaining independent and avoiding burdening our loved ones is a huge factor in solid retirement planning. To address these and other issues – including avoiding unplanned institutional care and protecting your assets as you age – we invite you to attend a free LifePlanning seminar coming soon to a location near you. Click on the Upcoming Events tab for dates and times. You’ll come away with invaluable information to help you on the road to a comprehensive plan for your senior years.

We’ll look forward to seeing you!

(Originally reported at


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