6 Ways To Handle Stubbornness In Seniors

Stubbornness In Seniors: Proper Communication Goes a Long Way.  


Dealing with stubbornness in aging parents or other senior loved ones can be frustrating. Quite often, we’re merely trying to help them by making a suggestion such as: “You should see a doctor about your illness.” Yet they refuse to do so and won’t help themselves for their own good. Why is that? And what can we do to deal with situations in which a senior is being stubborn?


A few reasons why seniors are stubborn

There are many reasons a senior may become stubborn, a few are because they:

  • ·         Feel depressed about the deaths of spouse, friends, and/or family
  • ·         Feel they’re being left out of the family
  • ·         Fear their own mortality
  • ·         Fear the family might place them in a nursing home
  • ·         Feel isolated
  • ·         Have anger issues
  • ·         Suffer from dementia


6 tips for handling stubbornness

What’s a loved one to do when they’re receiving push back from a senior? Experts offer the following suggestions.


1.    Pick your battles – If your aging parent has a lifelong habit you don’t like, and it’s not getting in the way of safety, forget it. They don’t want to give up habits, even harmful ones. Start with the big things like dad being unable to cook, not having enough food in the house since mom died, or other basics that really do involve safety. 


2.    Pick the right time for “the talk” – Be sure to pick the time, place, and person you think is best for having “the talk” with your aging loved one. Choose someone who is known to get along well with the senior, someone they trust. Try the conversation during a time of day when the senior is most likely to be amenable, like after a favorite meal when they’re feeling full and happy.


3.    Don’t marginalize them – Don’t exclude your senior loved one from important decision making activities. Often we tend to give little credit to the vast experience and the wisdom of our elderly parents. Marginalization makes the parent feel hopeless and unwanted which in turn leaves them with no choice but to become rebellious and look to others for comfort, usefulness and belonging.


4.    Always put the need for change on us, not on our parents – When we want our parent to make some kind of change, make it our problem and take all the blame. If we’re trying to get mom to accept a home helper, think about pitching it as our need, not hers, such as, “Mom, I’m such a worry wart, I can’t help myself. I’m losing sleep over you not getting enough good food in the house. Please help me. I need you to put my crazy mind at rest.  Could I ask you to try a person out to come in and shop and cook for you a few times a week? I’ll help you find someone. Please, for me?”


5.   Ask questions – Rather than telling a senior what to do, ask for their opinions. “What’s the best solution for your difficulty in driving at night?” Let them come up with the answers. If they act like there’s no problem, cite specific examples and why it’s concerning. “Do you remember you almost ran into that pedestrian the other night?” Be careful not to come across as condescending or act as if you’re the parent. These conversations are hard enough. Also, by asking questions, you are showing that you value their opinion. And them coming up with solutions is empowering.


6.    Use the “yes-and” technique – This is something mediators use all the time to redirect conversations. When someone disagrees with us, instead of saying, “That’s not true,” we choose another response. We can acknowledge what our parent just said with the words, “yes” followed by “and” followed by whatever is the contrary thought. For example: If dad says, “I don’t need to sign a bunch of stupid legal papers now! I’ll worry about that when I get old!” You say, “Yes, and lots of people are getting these durable power of attorney forms signed even when they’re young, like me. In fact, I need to do it, too. I’d like to bring mine over and show you and maybe we can sign them together. What do you say?”



A new study

A new study may help adult children and their parents have more constructive conversations. Researchers examined differences in how the two groups perceive so-called “stubborn” behaviors in parents, as well as factors that may lead to these perceptions. The findings, reported in January in The Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences & Social Sciences, aim to help family members understand each other better and strengthen support for older adults. Perhaps unsurprisingly, adult children saw their parents as acting stubborn more often than parents saw this behavior in themselves. 


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BLOG Date: Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Writer: Ryan Allen