How to Drive Your Elder Parent Crazy in Five Easy Steps

Many older adults are in fear of living ‘past their savings’. Elder care services, whether delivered at home or within a facility setting are quite expensive and so many families are forced to provide this care for one another.

Most adult children will readily jump in to help when ‘the time comes.’ Translation – a crisis occurs … a fall, a stroke, a heart attack, a broken hip…

Discussing ahead of time what each (the adult child and the older parent) would define as ‘help’ has not occurred. Consequently, assumptions are made and those assumptions can drive the entire family crazy.

The following five steps are in jest but should drive home the need to openly discuss with your loved ones what you are capable of doing, what your limitations are, what you are not willing or able to do (and so forth) with your parent. Your parent must also have the opportunity to relay what he or she expects from you. This discussion is most productive if explored before the ‘crisis’.

Step One – Assume the Parental Role

From now on, you are in charge – what your parent wants no longer matters – because you know best! Change as much as possible; rearrange the furniture, throw things out without permission, and completely revise all daily routines.

Question every move your parent makes. Question every decision your parent makes. Instill a daily routine that when they ‘obey your wishes’ you will feel safe knowing exactly what your parent is doing and where he or she is at all times.

When your parent begins to stand up from a sitting position, say things like, “Where are you going?” or “Sit! Tell me what you need, I’ll get it for you!” This works best if you use the authoritative ‘parenting voice’.

Step Two – Completely Change Their Diet

You are a healthy baby-boomer and have been eating a healthy diet for years. Your parents still have a pot of grease on the stove top drained from the morning bacon. You haven’t eaten canned vegetables or fruits since you lived at home, you prefer fresh and organic. Now that you’re in charge – you can make your parents healthy.

Take over the shopping. It doesn’t matter if your parents give you a list – you know best. Shop for them like you shop for yourself. Make them eat their five servings of fresh fruit and vegetables every day. Cut down or eliminate on meat consumption, no more bacon, meatloaf, fried potatoes, canned corn and gravy.

When your parents complain, just reply, “I’m going to get you healthy again!” and then completely ignore any other objections they may have, you are after all, in charge.

Step Three – Talk Down to Them and About Them

Begin using a ‘sing-song’ voice and speak to your parent as though they were two years old. If you’ve always called your mother ‘Mom’ and your father ‘Dad’ now is the time to start calling them ‘Mommy’ or ‘Daddy’.

When you are at their home and another sibling or other person comes to visit, talk about your parents, in front of them, and pretend they can’t either hear you or understand you. Make sure you discuss private and potentially embarrassing things. Say something like, “Daddy is doing okay today, we’ve been able to get him to the bathroom on time and so far, knock on wood, no accidents.” Or try this, ‘Mommy is not feeling so well today, she wouldn’t even let me help her take a bath.”

Step Four – Intercede all Communications

You decide what mail your parents will read and what is thrown out before they see it. You grab the phone when it rings and before you hand it over to your parent, you screen the call. If it’s a relative, friend or neighbor of your parent, be certain to provide a quick update on how your parent is doing – before you hand the phone over.

You decide who can visit and who can’t. You determine which visitors may prove to be upsetting and you make up the excuses as to why a visit isn’t a good idea at the moment.

When your parents question you, simply say, “Daddy, I’m just trying to protect you.” Make sure you use your parenting voice.

Step Five – Over Extend Yourself

Assume that you are the only person on this planet that can provide the proper care for your loved ones. No one else could possibly do the job as well as you. Meanwhile, allow the rest of your life to suffer. You will quickly become exhausted and stressed.

When your parent lovingly says, ‘You look tired honey, are you okay?’ This is your cue to SNAP! Be as indignant as possible and use your ‘outside voice’ and exclaim, “Yes! I’m exhausted. Look at what I’m doing … (and then proceed to rattle off each and every daily item that you attend to followed with) and on top of that, I’m here cleaning up after you and making sure you’re okay!”

Founder and president of Senior Approved Services advocating for the right of all seniors to receive excellent care.
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