Updated November 9, 2022 – It can be difficult for adult children to deal with their irrational elderly parents. But there are ways to stay patient and respectful while keeping your own peace of mind. One of the most important things is to remember that this is a challenging time for them, too.
Here are some tips for how to handle your parent’s irrational behavior:
- Try to understand where your difficult parent is coming from. Even if their reasoning doesn’t make sense to you, try to see things from their perspective.
- Speak with their doctor. Their difficult behavior may be a side effect of medications they are taking.
- Don’t take their irrationality personally. Most parents are not acting this way to spite you – it’s more likely just a symptom of their age or illness.
- Everyone has bad days. Don’t mistake these with a consistent bad behavior.
- Communicate with them calmly and effectively. Be clear about what you need from them, and be understanding if they’re not able to meet your expectations.
- Seek support from friends or family members. It can be helpful to have someone to talk to who understands what you’re going through.
- Take care of yourself. These situations can be stressful, so make sure to find time for yourself to relax and rejuvenate.
- Have a set “safe space” for yourself and your senior loved one to go to when and if the situation becomes very difficult.
- Don’t be shy about asking for and hiring respite care.
- Seek professional help if the situation becomes too difficult to handle on your own. A therapist or counselor can offer guidance and support.
Remember that your aging parents (like many older people) are experiencing a loss of control and loss of independence. These issues and much more can be very frightening.
Unless you have a contentious relationship with your elderly parents, the best way to deal with a difficult elderly parent is to try to come to some compromises with them.
Of course, if your parents are living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, you can’t expect rational behavior from them. Here are some tips on how to talk to a parent with a cognitive decline problem.
What To Do If Your Elderly Parents Are Irrational
The definition of “irrational” is difficult to pinpoint because it can mean different things to different people. But in general, irrationality usually refers to a disconnection from reality or an inability to think logically.
In general, human beings are incredibly irrational creatures. We all have our own beliefs and preferences, which can be difficult to understand for other people whose ideas might differ from yours or even seem crazy at first glance!
You may be convinced that you are just cursed with stubborn aging parents (I know that’s how I felt). But the reality may be much more complex than that. You may not be able to get to the core of the problem without a third party intervention from a therapist, a social worker, etc.
It’s no easy feat trying to convince someone else that there’s something wrong with their thinking. Especially when they refuse to accept help in making sense out of anything whatsoever (which has been shown time and again).
So what do you say? Should you just give up on trying because things don’t always work out perfectly every single moment? Or would it actually make more sense to persevere and try to understand your elderly parents when they start becoming irrational?
The best thing to initially do is to just not escalate the situation with loud voices and arguing. Instead, try to understand why they are saying what they are saying or doing what they are doing. There may be an underlying cause like chronic pain, beginning cognitive impairment, mental health problems, etc.
Their behavioral changes might seem like they are being stubborn. They may manifest as your parents believing that they’re still young and sprightly when their health is starting to decline, or insisting on doing things their own way even though it’s causing them harm.
A whopping 77% of adult children believe their parents are stubborn about taking their advice or getting help with daily tasks, according to a study by researchers at Penn State University.Aplaceformom.com
It’s important to remember that our elderly parents have been through a lot in their lifetimes. They may not be as sharp as they once were, or as quick to catch on to new things. This doesn’t mean that they’re automatically irrational – it could just mean that they process information differently than they used to.
If your elderly parents are starting to become irrational, try to be patient with them. Speaking calmly and clearly can go a long way in resolving the situation. Avoid getting frustrated if they don’t understand what you’re saying right away. It’s also important to be respectful; after all, they’re still your parents!
It can be difficult to know how to deal with the situation. You may feel frustrated, overwhelmed, or even angry. However, it’s important to remember that you can’t change your parents – only they can do that.
Here are a few tips:
- Try to relax and rejuvenate yourself. This will help you deal with the situation more calmly.
- Seek professional help if the situation becomes too difficult to handle on your own. A therapist or counselor can offer guidance and support.
- Remember that you can’t change your parents, but you can change how you react to them.
- Setting boundaries and communicating what you need from them can be a good thing. Be specific and clear about what you expect, while still being respectful.
- Take some time for yourself to decompress and de-stress. This will help you keep your cool when interacting with your parents.
- If you have a close friend or relative who has been through this situation, it can be very helpful to open up to them. If not, seek out support groups in your area or online.
- You may also want to hire a social worker or geriatric care manager to help you through the situation.
Setting Boundaries With Difficult Elderly Parents
It can be difficult to set boundaries with elderly parents who may be irrational or difficult to deal with. However, it’s important to remember that you are not responsible for their happiness or well-being – only for your own.
So, how do you set boundaries with elderly difficult parents?
Here are a few tips for setting boundaries:
- Be specific and clear about what you expect from your parents, and what you are willing to do. This will help avoid any misunderstandings or resentment.
- Try to maintain a calm and positive attitude when communicating with your parents, even if they are being irrational. This can be difficult, but it’s important to stay patient and respectful.
- Set limits on the amount of time you are willing to spend with your parents, especially if they are causing you stress. You don’t have to cut them out of your life entirely, but it’s okay to take some time for yourself.
- Seek support from family and friends if you are struggling to deal with your parents. Talking about the situation can help you feel more understood and less alone.
- If the situation becomes too difficult to handle, consider seeking professional help. A therapist or counselor can provide guidance and support as you navigate this challenging time.
What Should You Not Say To An Elderly Parent
It can be difficult to know what to say to an elderly parent who is acting irrational. After all, a human being can only take so much!
The repetitions, the forgetfulness, the incessant asking whether we’d like a sandwich: Eventually it just happens, and out of our well-meaning mouths tumble snarky comments and insults that we really don’t mean but they … just … slip … out.Nextavenue.org
Although it may be difficult, all caregivers should at least try their best to be as respectful and patient with their senior loved ones as much as possible.
Here are some things you should avoid saying:
“You’re just being irrational.”
Telling your parent that they are being irrational will only make them feel more defensive and upset. Try to listen to what they are saying and try to understand their perspective.
“I don’t have time for this.”
If your parent is causing you stress, it’s important to take some time for yourself. You don’t have to cut them out of your life entirely, but it’s okay to take some time for yourself.
“You already told me that story.”
It’s important to keep in mind that your parent’s memory might not be as good as it used to be. If they tell you a story more than once, don’t roll your eyes – just listen and show that you are interested. Memory loss is very common amongst old people.
“You’re just being a burden.”
Your parents may feel like a burden to you, but this is not how they should feel. Let them know that they are still important to you and that you love them.
“I can’t believe you forgot her birthday!”
It’s normal for older parents to forget things from time to time. Rather than getting angry, try to help them remember by providing them with a list of important dates or using a calendar that they can keep track of.
“Why are you wearing that?”
Your parents may start to dress in ways that you don’t agree with or that make you feel uncomfortable. It’s important to remember that this is their life and they should be able to dress however they please.
My sweet mom-in-law wears an undershirt, a long sleeve shirt and a sweater when she goes outdoors in 80 plus degree weather! If that’s what makes her comfortable, then so be it.
“I can’t believe you’re still living in that dump!”
Your parents may not have the money or the energy to move out of their home as they get older. Help them to stay in their home by doing things like mowing the lawn, grocery shopping, and taking out the trash.
“You’re just like your father/mother.”
Saying things like this will only make your parents feel bad. Try to be supportive and positive, even if you don’t agree with their decisions.
“It’s time to hang up your keys.”
Losing the ability to drive can be a tough pill for many seniors to swallow. If you’re concerned about your parent’s safety on the road, offer to drive them places or help them find alternative transportation options.
“I don’t know how you do it.”
Aging can be difficult, but that doesn’t mean your parents can’t still lead fulfilling lives. Let them know that you admire the way they’ve managed to carry on in the face of these challenges.
“You’re so lucky you get to retire soon.”
Your parents might feel like they’re losing something when they retire – after all, their career has been a big part of their lives. Help them adjust to retirement by talking about what they plan to
“You’re getting old, there’s nothing we can do.”
Age is a natural process, and your parent is not doomed because they are getting older. There are many things that can be done to help your parent age gracefully.
“You’re just being forgetful.”
Forgetfulness is common in older adults, and it doesn’t mean that they are losing their mind. Try to be patient with your parent and help them remember things when they need help.
“I’m not your doctor, I can’t help you.”
Your parent may not be able to see their doctor as often as they would like, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help them. You can research their symptoms and help them find the information they need.
“You’re just being difficult.”
Older adults can have a lot of personality changes as they age. This doesn’t mean that they are being difficult on purpose. Try to understand where they are coming from and why they are acting the way they are.
“You’re going to die soon.”
This is not something that you should say to your parent, no matter how true it may be. It will only make them feel worse and will not help the situation.
“I can’t do this by myself.”
Your parent may need help, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it all by yourself. There are plenty of resources available to help you both through this difficult time.
“That’s just no possible.”
Again, this is not something that you should say to your parent. Just because they can’t do something one way, doesn’t mean that they can’t do it another way. Try to find a way for them to still feel like they have some control over their life.
“I’m so sorry.”
Saying sorry will not change the fact that your parent is aging. It will only make them feel guilty and frustrated. There are other things that you can say that will be more helpful.
Helpful Things To Say To Your Aging Irrational Parent
“Let’s talk about this.”
Talking about the situation will help both of you to understand it better. This can also help to start finding a solution to the problem.
“How can I help you?”
Asking how you can help shows that you care and want to try to make things better.
“I’m here for you.”
Letting your parent know that you are there for them can be very reassuring. It can help them to feel less alone and more supported.
“What do you need?”
Asking what your parent needs shows that you are willing to do whatever you can to help them. This can be a very powerful statement.
“I love you.”
Saying I love you is always a good idea. It will remind your parent that they are loved and appreciated, no matter what.
“What can I do to make this easier for you?”
This is another way of showing that you want to help your parent. It shows that you understand their struggle and that you want to find a way to ease their burden.
What To Do When An Elderly Parent Refuses To Listen
It can be frustrating when your elderly parent refuses to listen to reason. Here are some tips on how to deal with irrational elderly parents:
- Try to understand their perspective.
- Avoid arguing or getting into a power struggle.
- Be patient and show them compassion.
- Make sure they feel heard and supported.
- Offer to help in any way you can.
- Most important, know when to walk away.
How Do You Deal With An Ungrateful Elderly Parent?
Besides dealing with irrational older adults, you may also feel that they are ungrateful. Why are they unappreciative of all you do? It is important to understand that this may not be personal. Their brain changes could be causing them to view the world differently.
As people age, they may become more set in their ways and unable to see other points of view. They may also have a harder time controlling their emotions.
This can lead to them feeling overwhelmed and taking their frustrations out on those around them, even if they don’t mean to.
If your parent is ungrateful, try to remember that it’s not about you. They may not be able to help how they feel. Show patience and compassion, and try to find other ways to express your love and appreciation.
It’s also important to take care of yourself. Don’t let your parent’s words or actions get to you. Spend time with friends and family, do things you enjoy, and find ways to relax.
This will help you deal with the stress of having an ungrateful parent.
If you’re struggling to deal with an ungrateful parent, talk to a therapist or counselor. They can help you develop better coping skills and provide support.
How To Stay Patient And Respectful
No matter how irrational your elderly parents may seem, it is important to stay patient and respectful towards them. Remember that they are still your parents, and they deserve your love and support.
Trying to argue an irrational person into rationality is pointless because from that person’s point of view, his/her behavior is rational. He is in the grip of thinking patterns with roots in the past. His behavior is a response to a perceived threat, and your appeals to reason come across as scolding, condescending and threatening, causing him to cling even harder to the behavior that he views as protecting him from that threat.bottomlineinc.com
Try to have regular conversations with them, even if they are difficult, and find ways to spend time with them whenever you can.
One trick I learned from working with neurologically impaired older adults (head injuries, stroke victims, dementia patients, etc.) is to walk into their world. In other words, try to understand why they are saying what they are saying or doing what they are doing.
An example could be the scenario where your senior parent is refusing to go to a doctor’s appointment and they aren’t able to say why. Instead of arguing with them, try these tactics:
- Ask questions to help them explain their thoughts. A question like “What is worrying you about seeing the doctor?”
- Validate their feelings, even if you don’t agree with their actions. If they express fear or concern, don’t discount it.
- Offer choices whenever possible, in order to give them a sense of control. Perhaps they will settle for an online doctor’s appointment instead (if it’s appropriate).
- Respect their decisions (even if you don’t agree with them), even if that means giving them some space.
- Let them know you’re always available to talk, and offer support however you can.
By not arguing with them and trying to change them and instead trying to listen to what is really going on, I was often able to diffuse the situation, remain calm and patient and sometimes even change their focus to something better.
This doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, but it will help you to remain patient and respectful.
Some things you can do that may be helpful:
- try to understand their motives for why they are doing what they are doing
- don’t argue or try to change them
- listen and empathize
- offer alternatives or solutions if you can
- remain calm and patient
- be respectful of their feelings, even if you don’t agree with them
- give them time and space if they need it
Of course, I understand that these are all much easier said than done.
I read an interesting article by Maureen Wendt titled What Goes Unsaid About Aging. In this article she lists some things that she believes our aging parents would say to us if they could:
- “It’s hard to admit that I need help.“
- “I need time to adjust to change.“
- “Don’t talk down to me.“
- “I’m not helpless.“
- “My biggest fear is being a burden.“
- “I need to feel useful.“
- “I miss all of my old friends.“
- “I don’t feel any different on the inside.“
- “Walkers are for old people.“
- “It hurts to leave home.“
- “My memories are precious.“
It’s difficult for many adults to admit or even understand these feelings and thoughts so I love that the author listed these. I’m sure you could probably add quite a bit more to your own list.
If your older parents are acting irrationally, it may just be that they are dealing with some of the psychological issues that are so very common amongst seniors.
Ms. Wendt goes on to give her tips on how you can better care for a senior parent.
- Honor emotions
- Don’t overwhelm
- Make decisions with parents
- Be patient
- Stand firm
- Accept their limits
- Respect their desires
- Celebrate a senior’s life
I encourage you to read her article for more details on these tips.
No one said this would be easy, but it is definitely worth it. You are helping to maintain a positive relationship with your elderly parents, which in turn, will only make them more comfortable and happy. And that is definitely something to be grateful for.
How To Deal With Stress Associated With This Situation
The amount of stress that many family caregivers experience can be overwhelming. It is important to find ways to cope with the stress so that you can continue to provide your loved ones with the care they need.
Some things that may help include:
- Practicing self-care: Taking time for yourself every day, even if it’s just a few minutes, is crucial. Make sure to do things that you enjoy and make you feel good.
- Finding support: Talk to someone who will understand what you’re going through, whether it’s a friend, family member, or therapist
- Taking breaks: If possible, take a break from your duties every so often to relax and rejuvenate.
- Breathing exercises: These can be helpful in moments of stress.
Following these tips should help you to manage the incredible amount of stress that many caregivers find themselves in.
When To Seek Professional Help
So, when do you know when it’s time to get some help? If your elderly parent’s behavior is becoming increasingly irrational and you can’t seem to handle the situation on your own, it might be time to seek out some outside assistance.
Professional help can come in many forms, including therapy, medication management, or even just a support group for caregivers. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it – your mental and physical health is worth it!
Knowing when it’s time to step back and let a professional intervene can be difficult, but it’s important. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed out, it might be time to reach out for some help.
Your parents’ health and well-being is important, and you shouldn’t have to bear the burden alone.
No one said taking care of elderly parents would be easy, but it can be a lot less stressful with some outside help. Knowing when to ask for help is important, and so is knowing your own limits.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s time to reach out for some support. Your parents’ health and well-being is important, and you shouldn’t have to deal with it all on your own.