How to Deal With Stubborn Aging Parents?

How to Deal With Stubborn Aging Parents?


A study conducted by Penn State University, the New Jersey Institute for Successful Aging, and Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine revealed that 77% of grown-up children indicated that their aging parents were not cooperative when it came to taking advice or getting assistance with the challenges they faced. This led to caregivers feeling like their parents were a burden, eventually bruising their relationship. What most of them may not have understood is the fact that their manipulative elderly parents’ reactions may be an indication of a deeper problem.

Some conditions among the elderly people can influence their character negatively. Rather unfortunately, the person who gets the heat of it all is the caregiver. Again, as parents grow older they tend to go back to what may be considered as ‘childish’ behavior. This kind of character in return sparks negative emotions from the caregiver especially if they are not sensitive enough to this fact. Knowing how to deal with elderly parents living with you during this critical stage in their lives will help resolve many underlying issues.


Why won’t my aging parents listen to me?

Why won't my aging parents listen to me?

More often than not, parents want to hang on to autonomy even when they are helpless. This is one major reason why aging parents will not listen to their adult children. In such situations, they have the tendency of feeling insecure when they notice that they can no longer handle tasks that they easily handled before. In addition, the feeling that they could be a burden to their loved ones sometimes pushes some seniors to get wrapped up in their own world so that it becomes hard to take concern or gestures of help positively.

Other possible reasons why aging parents won’t listen to their children caregivers include:

  • Uncertainty about the future. Seniors face a lot of uncertainties as they advance in years. They may be uncertain about the effects of disability that occurs in old age, being in a position of constantly depending on others to help them, frequent illness as a result of old age, or even death itself.
  • Feelings of frustration and fear as they go through old age. Research by the National Institute of Health shows that 3-14% of seniors have a lot of fear and anxiety. Elderly people can go through this for a myriad of reasons like stress or they may have gone through horrifying experiences in their previous years especially because with age comes vulnerability.
  • Having to be dependent on help when they were the ones being depended on before. It is extremely frustrating for most elderly people to accept the fact that they have to look up to those who previously depended on them. To them, this is equivalent to demeaning their self-esteem. It is always necessary for both the caretaker and senior persons to discuss this in advance to enable a smooth transition when such a time comes.
  • Health-related issues like dementia which affect their memory. Besides old age memory loss can occur as a result of depression, dementia, previous physical damage to the head, stroke, or excessive alcohol consumption. If memory loss prevents the person you are taking care of from handling daily chores, it is advisable to seek help from a physician.


Common behaviors among stubborn aging parents

Common behaviors among stubborn aging parents

There is no common ground to measure the behaviors of old people. This is because different age groups react differently to change. If tuned to adapting fast to change, seniors usually find it a little easier to take challenges positively thereby developing positive energy for their sunset years. However, as such an ideal is not always the case, some seniors will develop the following common character behaviors in response to challenges related to aging:

  • Anger. A research done by Anger State and Trait Anger Inventory (STAXI), Aggression Questionnaire(AQ), and Reaction Inventory(RI) indicates that seniors with depression have a higher tendency to get angry compared to those who are not depressed. Anger can be defined as a fluctuation of emotions ranging from annoyance to outright rage. With the help of a physician, a caregiver can address elderly anger, hostility, and depression issues and how to contain them.
  • Resentment. Resentment may sometimes be revealed in the form of an elderly mother passive aggressive behavior rather than openly. Some contributing factors to this behavior in seniors include depression due to the loss of a loved one sometimes a spouse, insufficient finances, or diagnosed illness. A caregiver needs to exercise empathy, patience, and tolerance when caring for a resentful senior.
  • Using foul, abusive, offensive or improper language. Old people, particularly those with Alzheimer’s or Dementia, tend to have a change in behavior. This may include the use of vulgar and abusive words even if they never had such behavior in their previous years. When dealing with such people, try to identify the root cause of such behavior, try your best not to overreact, and discourage them firmly but lovingly from using such language. Secondly, because this can also affect you, find a way of not holding on to their nasty words and always take a breather to refresh your mind.
  • Refusing to shower. Poor hygiene amidst seniors could be caused by depression, lack of self-control, mental or emotional disorder, inactivity, the uncomfortable or insecure feeling of being in a bathroom, memory loss or the thought of being supervised during baths. It is important to find out the root of the problem then have a conversation with them. While it is not an easy subject, such a discussion could be the remedy needed to solve the underlying problem. Think about a personal hygiene plan as well as empowerment when handling hygiene issues.
  • Refusing to see the doctor. Ken Covinsky, a researcher at the University of California found out that the older one gets the more dreadful hospital visits are. If your elderly parent refuses medical treatment, it could be due to the knowledge that medication causes more damage than good. While seniors may sometimes be justified not to see a doctor, some serious cases may cause you to consider having a doctor come over to the house if your elderly parent refuses to go to a doctor.
  • Not agreeing to outside caregiver services. Anxiety and lack of respect are some major factors that cause older people to reject outside caregivers. For the seniors, caretakers who are not family create an impression of isolation from their loved ones. It is therefore essential for adult children to learn how to deal with an elderly parent who refuses help from outside by giving them an affirmation and explaining that an outside caregiver is not there to be a direct caretaker but to offer a helping hand.
  • Demanding all your time and attention. You may be familiar with seniors who keep talking about sad tales. This is a major manipulative indication that your elderly mother wants constant attention. Find engaging activities that will distract them and stop them from pulling stunts when seeking attention.


Are your stubborn loved ones suffering from a diminished capacity?

Are your stubborn loved ones suffering from a diminished capacity?

According to the World Health Organization, by the year 2050, the number of people who are 60 years old or more will be twice their population.. This represents a remarkable increase from 10%. Of this population, 6% represents those with mental and neurological conditions. One condition that affects the elderly, characterized by a decline of cognitive ability, is diminished capacity. Sadly, diminished capacity can affect one way before Alzheimer’s and dementia have been diagnosed. Look out for the following signs of diminished capacity in your elderly loved one:

  • Memory loss. Frequent memory lapse.
  • Poor judgment. A change in reasoning capacity and their perspective of evaluating risks may be an indication of diminished capacity. Areas that are most affected by this are health, finances, and automobile operations.
  • Difficulty in understanding simple concepts. Seniors sometimes subconsciously shut down their brain to new ideas. This may not be connected to their age but to their unwillingness to grasp new things.
  • Communication challenges. Challenges in communication due to hearing loss, dental problems, medication, salivation, as well as the effect of stroke if they have suffered from one or several.
  • Mood swings. Manipulative behavior in the elderly people often in the form of mood swings is usually caused by stress. Stress brings about a fluctuation in emotions which is a sign of degeneration of the mental status.
  • Confusing time place and people. Elderly people react to Alzheimer’s differently. One of the first symptoms of this disease is the inability to recall the date, time, place, and people including family members.
  • Vision impairment problems. Reduction in elderly vision clarity is triggered by macular degeneration, blood sugar levels, cataract, and glaucoma.
  • Isolation and disinterest in social activities and hobbies. Loneliness and disconnection among the elderly people usually caused by sickness, grief, dementia, loss of confidence, and a lack of the sense of being needed especially after retirement.


How to deal with difficult elderly parents?

How to deal with difficult elderly parents?

Dealing with demanding aging parents who are not willing to listen requires skill. Parents are still in control and adult children need to remember this even when taking care of them. This way it will be easier to give their parents a chance to consider information before sharing their thoughts and ultimately become less resistant and more willing to cooperate. The following tips will help you deal with your elderly parents who are not willing to listen:

  • Accept it. Grown-up children need to accept that they cannot make forceful changes to their elderly parent’s attitude. A time comes when a caregiver has to accept and allow their loved one to decide and only come in handy when requested to.
  • Is the matter worth the fuss? Caregivers need to always weigh the reaction of their elderly parents without making a fuss. Sometimes letting small issues pass is how to deal with irrational elderly parents. If the matter poses no risk or security threats to others, it is definitely not worth the fuss.
  • Let them be but be ready to help when things go wrong. Giving room or keeping your distance as a caretaker is important. Avoid crowding the private space of your aged parents. Rather, be available when they call for your assistance.
  • Vent elsewhere. when caught up in a heated argument perhaps because of a disagreement, its best to find other avenues to let out your frustrations. This could involve talking to an acquaintance, relative or a support group away from your parent.
  • Understand. Discern and understand why your old parents are not willing to listen. Revisiting the history of your parent’s reaction patterns could be the solution you need for this problem.
  • Empower them. No matter how advanced they are in age, elderly parents should be treated delicately and given the power to make decisions as an autonomous entity.
  • Come to a compromise. Reaching a compromise with the older generation is a great way to make them less stubborn. It is essential for both the caregiver and parents to know where to draw the line.
  • Work on communication. Elderly people have sensitive needs hence communicating with them can be quite a tall order. For caregivers to have effective communication with their loved ones, they need to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Using language that is easy to understand will also enhance communication.
  • Be thoughtful and loving. Caregivers should always firmly but lovingly explain to their elderly parents that though they love them, certain tough decisions need to be made with sobriety.


Improve communication with your difficult aging parent

Improve communication with your difficult aging parent

If a caregiver’s elderly mother is mean and not willing to communicate, remember that coming up with efficient ways of relaying information may bring about a more fulfilling relationship with her. In addition, some parents as a result of a lowered self-esteem during old age, develop a negative attitude towards life. Effective and positive communication might be the remedy you need in dealing with negative elderly parents. Here is how to:

  • Personalize your language. When the elderly parent has anger and hostility, the best way to deal with them is by personalizing your speech. Instructing them using a phrase such as ‘you must exercise’ is not as effective because seniors are bound to feel like you are dictating them. Use words which indicate that you as the caregiver are also a part of their chore for example ‘I will assist you with your exercise’ sounds much better.
  • Avoid assumption. Caregivers can make their elderly parents to feel more in charge of their own lives by helping them in decision making. As a caretaker, do not assume that you have the responsibility of doing everything for your seniors. Teamwork is the best approach.
  • Do not pass judgment. Passing judgment on older people hinders a healthy communication. Our seniors have struggles, judging them only fuels a lack of cooperation thereby making things harder.
  • Apply short phrases and questions. The use of clear, familiar and short phrases will make our elderly parents more likely to follow instructions from adult children. This improves understanding between the caregiver and the recipient, therefore, strengthening communication.
  • Listen more than you talk. Caretakers should avoid making decisions without listening to their elderly parents. Your senior’s body language can be a clue to what they need. It helps to be keen enough to get more information from older people just by listening.
  • Give older people space to think and offer feedback. It is important for adult children to understand that their elderly parents take longer to recall and process information. Putting them under pressure to give quick feedback only results in more stress. Patience is a virtue if resistance from parents has to be minimized.
  • Provide elderly parents with alternatives. When you offer alternatives to your older parents, you give them the freedom of choice and a chance to express themselves. ‘Do you prefer bread or cereals for breakfast’ causes the senior person to respond better than ‘what do you want for breakfast?’
  • Stick to the subject. Moving from one subject to another during a conversation only confuses senior people. On the other hand, excessively detailed information is bound to overwork their brain leading to resistance. Addressing one topic at a time is the best way to improve communication between adult children and their elderly parents.
  • Base your conversations on simple and familiar topics. When talking to old people about topics that interest them, they are more likely to get positive feedback. Complicated and unfamiliar subjects create disinterest hence causing a communication breakdown.
  • Minimize distractions. A conducive surrounding enhances communication. Serene and quiet places are more suitable than areas with background noise which causes a lot of distraction. A quiet environment makes seniors feel appreciated thanks to the fact that in such situations adult children will give them full attention.


At what point should you seek help with your stubborn aging parent?

At what point should you seek help with your stubborn aging parent?

Dealing with demanding elderly parents requires a caretaker to employ different kinds of strategies in order to get an effective response from the senior person. In some circumstances, seniors refuse to cooperate no matter how much effort the caretaker gives to the care and they soon become a threat not only to the caregiver but also to others around them. In such extreme cases, it is advisable to seek professional help. When you notice the following red flags when caring for an elderly person, know that it is time to seek help.

  • When they refuse to eat for a long time. It is important to seek help for your elderly mother who is passive, aggressive and constantly refuses to eat. This is because her health may be at risk due to a lack of essential nutrients obtained from food.
  • Abuse of medication. This refers to the wrong use of prescribed drugs. Elderly people may put their lives at risk by taking medicine without following the physician’s guidelines. It is not unusual for old people to take more medicine than is necessary or use medication at the wrong time perhaps due to memory loss. Some even take drugs that are meant for another member of the family if the drugs are not kept out of reach. In such instances, inform the concerned physician immediately and book a meeting for them to be checked.
  • Alcohol abuse. Older people will react differently to excessive intake of alcohol from others. Handling alcohol abuse in the elderly parent can be a huge challenge for any caregiver. This is because this problem may go unidentified or its effects be mistaken for changes that occur during old age like imbalance. Once you discover that your loved one is taking excess alcohol, get them urgent assistance. Some grave dangers of excessive alcohol to the elderly person include:
    • Cancer and liver damage
    • Lowering of immunity
    • Destruction to the brain
    • Accidents, falls, and fractures
  • Antisocial behavior. Some antisocial behaviors that may reflect during old age include:
    • Attacking others using dangerous weapons
    • Trespassing people’s properties
    • Issuing threats to those living around them

Care providers should get help when their elderly parents turn into social misfits and pose a threat to the society.



After all is said and done, it is important for every adult child to realize that the old generation is a very crucial part of the world’s population. Old age comes with wisdom, something that we desperately need in our communities today. The more we provide good care to our old loved ones the more chances we have to better our society. However, this may not be achieved without our commitment to making it happen. Again, it is not an individual responsibility. It takes teamwork from caregivers, immediate family, physicians, friends and the society as a whole. What affects your parents today could affect others tomorrow. This is why networking with the aim of helping these dear ones and having conversations around how to deal with stubborn aging parents is very important. Most important is to include them in this quest for the benefit of all.

What do you think?

2 Comments. Leave new

  • Thank you for reminding me that it is okay to ask help from other people especially if my elderly parent is constantly being passive, aggressive, and even says no to food. My mother has been really stubborn ever since she was younger, and one could only imagine how worse the situation is when she got older. My siblings and I are now considering hiring professionals in personal care services so they could look after her properly.

    • Hey Zoe,

      It is one of the biggest challenges to deal with parents who are stubborn. Believe me, me and my sister know that.

      I hope you and your family do well and you have many beautiful moments together.


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