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7 Tips On Setting Boundaries With Difficult Elderly Parents

7 Tips on Setting Boundaries with Difficult Elderly Parents

As you get older and start a life of your own, one of the hardest things to navigate is your relationship with your family. While everyone wishes for a healthy relationship with their parents, many people struggle with difficult parents who can cause stress and anxiety. 

It is important to set healthy boundaries to alleviate some of the grief caused by combative parents. The following are seven tips for setting boundaries with aging parents:

1. Acknowledge the Problem

Some people remain hopeful and assume that their parents will become more reasonable over time, but this is very rarely the case. When setting boundaries with difficult elderly parents, the first step is acknowledging that there is a problem. 

To maintain healthy boundaries in your relationship with your parents, you need to recognize that your dynamic is unhealthy and make the active decision to start tackling it.

2. Establish a Plan

Once you’ve acknowledged that there is an unhealthy dynamic in your relationship with your parents, you can form a plan for how you will deal with it. 

You don’t have to write down an official course of action; instead, you can simply think about the answers to a few questions: How will you approach your parents when talking about your relationship? How will you convey your feelings? What might their reaction be? 

Knowing the answers to these questions will help prepare you to work through the issues and set healthy boundaries.

3. Use a Nonthreatening Approach

One of the hardest parts of setting boundaries with difficult elderly parents is remaining delicate and nonthreatening. Many combative or abusive parents will already be on the defensive when you approach them. 

To minimize any negative discourse and encourage a more constructive conversation, you will need to approach your parents gently and in a way that doesn’t feel like you are confronting them. Even if you feel provoked, do not use insults, swear, or make accusations that lead to anger or increased sensitivity.

4. Be Mindful of Sensitive Topics

Another way to minimize any negative feelings or hostile words is avoiding sensitive topics. If there are particular things that you know will set your parent off and create intense anger, try to steer clear of these topics. 

This is an especially tricky aspect of setting boundaries with difficult elderly parents, as some sensitive topics need to be discussed. To have a truly effective conversation, you must carefully navigate which things must be brought up and which are better left unsaid.

5. Create Ground Rules

Once you have openly communicated with your parent and made them aware of an issue, you can set ground rules. 

Ground rules will look different for everyone, but their main purpose is to establish a line between what you are comfortable with and what you are not. 

Your parent should clearly understand what the ground rules are and what the consequences will be if they violate them. For example, one ground rule may be that your parent is not allowed to discipline your child in a certain way. If they do this, the consequence may be not seeing the child for a predetermined amount of time.

6. Remain Respectful

When setting boundaries with your parents, it is important to remain respectful. Acting juvenile or inappropriately will not serve your cause and only lead to a more strained relationship. Always speak to your parent in a way that shows manners, courtesy, and respect. 

At the same time, you must make sure to get your point across and make your message clear. To ensure that you do this correctly, you may want to discuss it with someone you trust and go over what you plan to say. 

Preparing for conversations with difficult parents can help you work through your feelings and confirm that you are doing so in a respectful manner.

7. Be Empathetic

If your parent is causing you stress or anxiety, it can be easy to feel frustrated and angry with them. It’s important to remember that there is often an underlying reason for your parent’s behavior. 

Whether it be childhood trauma, cognitive concerns, or other heavy issues, your parents may be dealing with something you do not know about. Always remain empathetic and understanding if they try to explain their point of view.

When to Set Boundaries with an Elderly Parent

Is your elderly parent causing you stress or difficulty that is wreaking havoc on your life? It is likely time to start setting boundaries with them in order to maintain a healthy, peaceful relationship. From creating ground rules to identifying triggers, many tips can help you when setting boundaries with difficult elderly parents. 

The first step is acknowledging that there is a problem and making the decision to take action. And while it’s not easy, setting clear boundaries allows you to build a more comfortable and appropriate relationship that benefits everyone involved.

If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation.  Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.

Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia CareBed & Wheelchair Transfer AssistanceCompanionshipHousekeeping & Meal PreparationPersonal CareRecovery Care, and Transportation.

Serving the San Francisco Bay Area and Greater San Diego, Family Matter In-Home Care has offices throughout California including: Campbell, CARoseville, CASan Marcos, CA, and San Mateo, CA.

Carol Pardue-Spears

Carol has worked in the healthcare field for more than forty years. As a Certified Nursing Assistant, she worked for El Camino Hospital in the cardiac unit, Los Gatos Community Hospital, The Women’s Cancer Center in Los Gatos and several home health and hospice agencies. Carol founded Family Matters in 2002 to fill a deficit she witnessed in high-quality, in-home services and care.

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