SIMPLE Tips to Deal with Irrational Elderly Parents 😵

Caring for aging parents is a task that many people find themselves doing because it allows them to spend more time with their loved ones. Besides, it offers the satisfaction of reciprocating the love and care parents provided in their prime. We must not ignore that caring for seniors can be very difficult, especially if they are stubborn or are suffering from conditions like dementia. Dealing with stubborn or irrational seniors requires a lot of patience and understanding. It is important to understand that you are not alone if you are struggling with irrational senior parents. You can apply simple tips to make caring for them better.

Dynamics of the Caregiving Relationship

Most of us are not professional caregivers, but we find ourselves caring for our aging parents. Like any relationship, caring for an aged person has unique dynamics that you must understand as you take on this noble yet challenging responsibility. Usually, the first dynamic is who, how, and where care should be provided, and if not handled well, it could result in chaos. Therefore, it is crucial to meet as a family and agree on which family member will take on caring for the senior. The home to be used for caregiving and how to do it must also be agreed upon. It is prudent to decide after consulting with other people because uninformed decisions can end up being very costly.

The second dynamic that you should navigate is how each child or family member can contribute to taking care of the aging parents to avoid overburdening one person. Specific duties should be assigned to everyone so that the chosen primary caregiver does not feel unfair. If one person feels overburdened or unfairly treated, resentment could breed among family members. All family members should remember that primary caregivers often experience burnout, especially if the aging parent is stubborn. If they become emotionally and mentally drained, they are unable to take proper care of the elderly.

Another important dynamic is to navigate finances. Caring for an older adult can be financially draining, particularly if they have a chronic or degenerative condition. Each family member’s contribution to medical and other caregiving bills should be agreed upon. If the elderly person has some money as their saving, then it should be spent wisely. It is not uncommon for one child or family member to take advantage of the situation by taking full control of the senior’s bank account. This often ruins many relationships within the family.

Meeting the personal preferences [1] and wishes of the elderly is also a very sensitive area that should receive plenty of attention. On one hand, you want to make them feel comfortable, supported, and loved. While on the other, some of their preferences and wishes may not be agreeable. Being responsible enough to balance between the two options can be difficult. It is crucial to be realistic about wishes, finances, and ethics. Usually, one party has to make a compromise for the well-being of the other. If this is not done, one party ends up feeling victimized or unappreciated. You can navigate this dynamic by maintaining open communication and setting healthy boundaries. All parties must also understand that not everyone’s wishes can be fulfilled, and things at the top of the priority list should be done first.

Balancing Power and Your Parent’s Safety

Do you remember your childhood years? Most of us had one simple rule to follow, which was obeying our parents and other older persons in the family. This meant that parents had more power [2] than the children. With the caregiving roles reversed, who becomes the more powerful one? Do you take on the power, or do you let your aging parent be the more powerful one? Can you control what your parents can and cannot do for the sake of your safety?

The above questions are among the many that new caregivers find themselves asking. Aging parents are sometimes stubborn because they do not want to accept that they are now old and cannot do the things they once did. For example, a parent above 80 years of age may still insist on doing handyman jobs around the house, but climbing ladders or using power tools could be extremely dangerous. Usually, they insist on doing potentially dangerous activities to prove that they are still useful and resourceful within the home.

Choosing between preserving and promoting independence and keeping stubborn seniors safe is a challenging task. It is very frustrating for the caregiver to try keeping their loved ones safe, as it can end up in fights because the senior feels underrated or underutilized around the home. The best approach to use is to weigh the risks versus benefits of whatever the senior wants to do. As you do this, you must understand that you could very easily become overprotective of them and stop them from doing the things they enjoy. Every person is unique, so you should always look at both sides of the coin. If the activity a senior wants to do can harm them physically or mentally, you should firmly say no to them. If it is safe, let them do it.

Doing the pros versus cons assessment requires sobriety because it is a very challenging balancing act. If you feel that an activity is too dangerous, you should explain to the senior why you will not let them do it calmly and lovingly. If you fail to do this, you may lower their esteem and make them feel useless and unwanted. If you let them perform an activity they wish, it is also essential to implement all the safety precautions you can. For example, if they wish to trim a hedge, no ladders should be availed to prevent falls, and they should be in the recommended safety gear.

Setting Boundaries with Your Parents

Taking care of a stubborn elderly parent can be very tricky hence the importance of healthy boundaries [3]. When these boundaries are enforced, healthy relationships are cultivated. If not, resentment breeds and this could lead to a very strained relationship. The lack of boundaries can make parents feel that it is fine for them to impose their wishes and beliefs on you. Healthy boundaries require both parties to acknowledge their roles and accept differences in beliefs, opinions, thoughts, needs, and experiences. Owning these differences makes it easier to say no or yes to different situations. When dealing with elderly parents, you can set boundaries by following the steps discussed below.

Communicate Clearly and Concisely

Keeping communication open and respectful is extremely important. Before you talk to an elderly parent, you must evaluate what you wish to communicate and find the right words. You should explain what they should adjust or do. Clear and concise communication entails being very straightforward and saying what you need of them without sounding apologetic. The request should be coherent and concrete, this makes it easier to relate with each other.

Be Compassionate and Assertive

It is important to state exactly how you feel without hurting your elderly parent. For assertive communication to take place, you should maintain eye contact with the elderly parent. You should also be calm when having a conversation, monitor your tone, and listen to what they have to say. At the same time, you need to show compassion by understanding why your elderly parents are the way they are. You should always communicate with them from the point of love rather than defensiveness.

Show Appreciation

Always remember that your parents did their best to raise you. Showing appreciation for all they have done for you makes them feel valued and cherished. As a result, they look at you differently and become more willing to listen to you.

Implement the “Broken Record” Technique

If a stubborn parent is combating your request for healthy boundaries, you can try the “broken record” method that requires you to communicate your needs assertively. You should firmly assert your needs over and over without engaging in any form of argument, tangent, or circular talk. Doing this lets the parents know that you are sticking to your boundaries.

Know and Respect Your Limits

What are you willing to tolerate from your aging parents? What can you not tolerate? You must realize that knowing your limits is a healthy thing. If you feel disrespected, say so and end the conversation calmly. If you feel like you need to take a break from your parents, do so to prevent unnecessary anger.

Consider Getting a Professional Caregiver

If it is becoming increasingly difficult to be the primary caregiver for your parent due to different reasons, you should consider hiring a professional caregiver [4]. A professional will relieve you of some pressure of caregiving. It is important to mention that not all caregivers are the same, and some will get along better with your aging parents than others. We shall look at the key considerations to make before settling for a professional caregiver.

Attentiveness and Ability to Listen

Irrational elderly parents normally demand plenty of attention. Listening to their calls is extremely important to avoid anger, shouting, and confrontations. A professional who is attentive and listens keenly can meet the needs and desires of your parents.

Reliable Presence

The caregiver you choose should exhibit professionalism at all times and prove that they are dependable. They should be clean and neatly dressed and also be willing to serve your parents as per the agreed schedule and pay.

Comfortable to Meet Hygiene and Incontinence Care for the Elderly

Elderly persons need high hygiene standards to prevent illnesses caused by poor sanitation and hygiene. The caregiver should be comfortable and able to provide incontinence care and other personal hygiene needs.

Consistent Communication

The caregiver should communicate with your elderly parents and with you, especially if you are away for work or school during the agreed working hours. They should contact you immediately in case of a problem.

Connection with Your Parent

Always observe how the caregiver interacts with your aging parents. Use your instinct to judge if they are a good fit for the job. Body language and other non-verbal interactions with your parents will guide you.


Aging parents can become stubborn and irrational, but you have to continue taking care of them. Therefore, it is important to evaluate and understand the dynamics of the child-parent caregiving relationship and the balance between power and safety. As you provide care for your parents, ensure you set healthy boundaries. If the need arises, you can hire a professional caregiver.


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