Feeling safe, protected and cared for is so wonderful. Parents thrive on making certain their young children are enveloped inside the comfort of recognizing their needs will be met, giving the safety net that allows them the self-assurance to explore the world around them. Yet there comes a stage in all children’s lives when the craving for independence overshadows the benefit of protection, and they’ve got to experience directly just what it means to stumble, fall and get up independently.
These kinds of protective instincts usually kick in once more for adult children towards elderly fathers and mothers when they take on senior caregiving duties. We wish to assist them to reduce risks, to keep them protected from harm. Yet at the same time, it’s all too easy to fall into a pattern of overprotectiveness if we’re not careful, which can result in feelings of anger as well as resentment on the part of the elderly parents.
As mentioned by professor of human development and family studies at Pennsylvania State University Steven Zarit, “One of the scariest things to people as they age is that they don’t feel in control anymore. So if you tell your dad not to go out and shovel snow, you assume that he’ll listen. It’s the sensible thing. But his response will be to go out and shovel away … It’s a way of holding on to a life that seems to be slipping back.”
Research recently looked into the impact of stubbornness in older adults’ relationships with their adult children. While the elders were less likely to rate themselves as appearing stubborn, their younger members of the family more regularly observed stubbornness being an issue. The key for adult children is in realizing their senior parents’ reason for digging in their heels to hold onto their self-reliance and autonomy, and to refrain from arguing and creating an attitude of defensiveness. Clear, open and truthful communication among both sides can go far towards smoothing the waters and making sure each person is heard and fully understood.
So what exactly is the easiest method to take care of our older family members without trying to control them? A healthy dose of patience, respect and empathy can go far. Positioning yourself within the senior’s shoes and knowing the importance of independence makes it possible for adult children to step back, as opposed to stepping in. Allow the additional time an older adult needs to accomplish a task, instead of doing the work for the individual. Consistently look for opportunities to show the older person you enjoy his or her suggestions and recommendations. Senior caregiving is both rewarding and very stressful, but there are resources to help. For additional suggestions about providing care that doesn’t cross the line, contact Heaven at Home Senior Care of Dallas, TX.