Who’s Being Stubborn? You or Your Elder Parent? 7 Keys to Break the Stubborn Cycle

July 29, 2009 at 3:35 am 2 comments

Remember Abbott and Costello’s baseball routine, “Who’s On First? ”  (Your parents will).

That’s what it feels like at times, caregiving a stubborn parent (or spouse). You feel like you’re going round and round and not getting anywhere. Driving issues, medication issues, physical therapy issues, living alone issues–everything can feel like a fight.

 How do you get out of the rut and stop arguing–and start agreeing? (Don’t forget, you may be acting a little stubborn yourself!)

7 Keys to Break the Stubborn Cycle:

  • Keep the goal in mind. Safety. Health. That’s what you have to focus on. It’s easy to get so frustrated that you forget that you have to come up with a solution. You’re the one who’s going to have to stay on track, so commit to that being your goal and don’t get thwarted by daily aggravations.
  • Some things aren’t up for debate. Did your parents let you drive when you were 12? Even if you argued you were tall enough and had been driving a go-cart and the family riding lawn mower since you were eight? It wouldn’t matter. You weren’t old enough. It wasn’t legal. End of story. That’s the attitude you have to adopt on a few things. If your parents have had their license taken from them, then it’s time to take the car out of the driveway. Eliminate the option. It’s not safe and you’re not budging.
  • Pick your battles. Only pick a few. Let something else slide. So what if they don’t take their calcium every single night. Isn’t it more important that they take their heart pill–or get that test done? If they’d rather walk with a cane than get in a wheelchair, respect them, even if it does take longer to cross the parking lot. Pick what matters most.
  • Remember, if your loved one has Alzheimer’s or dementia, they aren’t simply being stubborn. They’re not going to remember what you said yesterday, or even five minutes ago. You have to keep the boundaries and not expect them to remember. They can’t.
  • Once you make a decision, stick with it. Parents can be worse than teenagers. If you even once go back on your word, you’re sunk. That’s why that battle picking is so important. If you insist they go to the cardiologist once every three months, then don’t forget the appointment. Routines create security–and respect. They have to believe you’ll follow through.
  • Don’t make everything a battle. Loosen up when you can. You can still have fun. Find ways to celebrate every day–a small ice cream cone from McDonald’s, a few minutes bird watching, a cup of hot tea and cookies in the afternoon–and time to talk. Life is hard enough. Your job is to keep them safe, keep them as well as possible, and show them love. Lots of love.
  • Give  your parents the respect they deserve. Honor is so important. Brag in front of others–about their service to their country, how your mom helped you through college or raised three kids alone on a nurse’s salary. Tell them they’re smart, pretty, funny…special to you. Respect has nothing to do with how much income a person earns or even if they can still drive a car. It’s a state of being your parent never has to lose.
  • Bonus tip: Be sure you’re not the stubborn one here! It’s easy to label someone else and not see the same trait in ourselves. Be aware of what comes out of your own mouth, how long you hold onto a grudge, or how you’d rather rot than give in. If you’ve acted stubborn when it wasn’t necessary, say you’re sorry. It’s never too late to be a good example!

Entry filed under: brain fitness, caring for parents, elder care, family caregiving. Tags: , , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. April  |  September 21, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    “Pick your battles.”
    “Don’t make everything a battle.”
    “Some things aren’t up for debate.”
    I love these! I know a few sandwiched folks in my personal life that I’m doing my level best not to “advise” (read give a piece of my mind they haven’t asked for).

    As someone who’s in the trenches, how do you decide which battles you have to fight and which things aren’t up for debate?

  • 2. Pam Chorlog  |  May 12, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    How many days is it reasonable to let a person with Alzheimer’s (my mother) insist she doesn’t want to bathe? Have gone for 5 days and it’s still a “battle” every time.


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Hi, I'm Carol O'Dell. This blog will include stories and lessons I've learned while caring for my mom, and now as I speak to caregivers around the country. I hope to offer suggestions, ideas and insights that will help others.

While this blog is supported by Dakim Brain Fitness, I’m not blogging to promote the Dakim company or products. Instead, I’m writing about how caring and being cared for affects your life and your family. My hope is that this blog gives you a place to learn, reflect, gain new perspective to make it another day.

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