August 4, 2017

caring for seniorsIt is an amazing feeling to know that you are protected, safe and cared for. Fathers and mothers thrive on making sure their children are enveloped in the comfort of recognizing their needs will be met, giving the safety net that permits them the self-confidence to explore the world around them. Yet there comes a phase in all children’s lives when the yearning for freedom exceeds the benefit of protection, and they have to discover what it really means to stumble, fall and get back up again independently.

These protective instincts generally trigger once more for adult children when they begin caring for seniors in their lives. We want to help them to reduce risks, to make sure they’re protected from harm. Yet at the same time, it’s all too easy to fall into a pattern of overprotectiveness if we’re not really careful, which can result in feelings of anger and resentment on the part of the senior parents.

According to 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 explored the impact of stubbornness in older adults’ relationships with their adult children. While the seniors were less inclined to rate themselves as appearing stubborn, their younger family members more frequently considered stubbornness being an issue. The important thing for adult children is in realizing their parents’ reason for digging in their heels to hold onto their independence and autonomy, and to keep away from arguing and generating a mindset of defensiveness. Clear, open and truthful communication among both parties can go far towards smoothing the waters and making sure every person is listened to and fully understood.

So what is the easiest method to care for our older loved ones without trying to control them? A large dosage of patience, respect and empathy can go far. Positioning yourself within the older adult’s shoes and understanding the desire for independence allows adult children to step back, rather than stepping in. Give the extra time an older adult needs to complete a task, rather than doing it for the person. Consistently search for opportunities to show the older person you enjoy his or her input and recommendations. Caring for seniors is a rewarding, but stressful job. For further care tips and suggestions about providing care that doesn’t cross the line, contact Continuum In Home Care of St. Louis, MO.