Are Your Aging Parents Behaving Badly?


There are many stresses that people deal with as caregivers for their aging parents, but few are as difficult to handle as aggressive and negative behavior.  At FirstLight
HomeCare, we receive countless questions and concerns about what to do with an
aging parent who is abusive and hard to control.  The problem that many people face is the difficulty in confronting their parents about these behaviors saying things like, “they are stuck in their ways” or “they will get defensive if I bring up their behavior.”  Although these concerns are valid, you can and should address your aging parents behavior since it is for their safety as well as your own.

Whether your aging parents are physically abusive, curse excessively, or take poor care of themselves, there are simple and effective ways to help them change their behavior.  In order to assist in this difficult endeavor, we have provided a brief guide on how to address your parents behavior in a manner that is beneficial to both parties.

Discuss in a private and comfortable setting
When you address your parents poor behavior, they will inevitably become uncomfortable and/or aggravated. By discussing these behavioral issues in a private, comfortable setting, you will help alleviate some of this discomfort they will have and create an environment that they won’t try to leave.

It’s also best to be the only person in the room with them during this conversation in order to avoid embarrassing them, especially if you have siblings that have the same concerns as you.  If your aging parent feels bombarded, they will think only of leaving the situation and not receive the message you want to get across. Furthermore, a safe and comfortable environment will help your parents open up and discuss their behaviors with you. This will ultimately create the most beneficial discussion that can lead to real change.

Be Assertive in Explaining Their Poor Behavior
Don’t sugarcoat your concerns about their poor behavior as this will make them believe their behavior isn’t as bad as you see it.  By being assertive about their poor behavior,
you will display the necessity of why they need to change.  This will lead to them believing that they actually do need to change.  Let them know what they need to improve and how their behavior is affecting not only you, but their lives as well.

Give Specific Examples of Poor Behavior from the Past
If you generalize your message you will only confuse your parent and give them an opportunity to blow your concerns off as misjudgment on your part.  Specific examples will let them see what they are doing wrong and how their behavior has affected those around them and themselves.  This is especially true for general behavioral traits like cursing or physical abuse since they might not remember ever doing them.  If you provide your parent a specific instance that they hit you or cursed excessively they will be able to relate to that moment and see how their behavior causes harm.  Simply stating that they curse or hit will lead them to believe that you are exaggerating or overreacting.

Explain Why Their Behavior Needs to Be Changed
Even with your concern, your parents may not recognize why their behavior is bad and how it affects themselves and those around them.  Explain how their behavior makes you feel and how it negatively affects their health and safety.  A clear explanation will help show them why a specific behavior is bad and will give them a reason to change.  Few people of any age will change something just because someone else tells them to; however, if you are able to see how your behavior affects those around you, you will be more willing to change.

Reward Change, But Don’t Bribe Them
When your aging parent begins to show positive change in their behavior, let them know that you are happy with their improvement and encourage them to continue on the right path. However, it is not recommended to bribe them as it will make your concern come off as cheap and less important than you wish.  They will only see through these bribes and
lose trust in you and your concerns.

Final Note
Remember that your parents are aging and that their behavioral changes might be related to medical complications.  If you are concerned that their bad behavior might be related to a medical issue, speak with their physician and discuss alternative methods to making sure your parents are healthy and safe.

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