5 Things You Should Not Say to an Aging Parent

With aging comes frustrations and changes that are tough to swallow for both the older adult and the adult child. To the older adult, the aging body means the inevitable loss of independence or control; whereas to the adult child, it means stepping in and protecting mom or dad from what might happen. While most adult children step in with the best intentions, it is important to remember that you are the child in this relationship and NOT the parent. Although you may be entering into a role-reversed relationship, you will remain the child for the entirety of your parent’s life. Therefore, it’s imperative to remember that parents typically like to remain in the driver’s seat. Comments like, “Listen Mom, this is what’s best for you” won’t work well. 

Even if mom or dad has cognitive impairment, they are aware at some level. Constant reminders that cognitive and physical abilities are o the decline are hurtful reminders and can cause stress in relationships. Avoiding some of the following comments and finding creative ways to address concerns will likely keep lines of communication open and free of controversy. 

“You keep repeating yourself!”

The repetition and forgetfulness can be exasperating but by expressing frustration, your loved one hears that you don’t care about what he or she has to say.  Try asking questions that change the direction of the story or that prompt a different thought. 

“Stop yelling! You are talking so loud.”

Hearing loss can be common with an aging body. Try sitting and talking to them on their good side or facing them while speaking. If you speak loudly, they will speak loudly. 

“It is not safe for you to drive anymore!” 

Too often, we think that because our loved one is aging, they no longer have the reaction response they once did. Giving up the keys typically feels like they are losing all independence. Don’t be the one to take the keys away. Enlist the help of a professional. 

“You shouldn’t live on your own anymore. You can’t take care of the house!”

While this is likely coming from a place of love and concern for your loved one’s safety, he/she feels like the end is near. If you are concerned, have a conversation about what is working well first. Then, ask if there is anything that they are missing. Oftentimes, they will tell you that it is getting harder and you can empower them to “rightsize” and enjoy the parts of life they gave up, to take care of the house. 

“It is warm outside! You don’t need a jacket today.”

The way individuals feel temperature varies greatly, regardless of aging. Furthermore, it is important to understand that the ability to regulate body temperature changes as we age. Instead of telling someone what the temperature is or what they should wear, encourage wearing layers every day should the temperature change. 

The way individuals feel temperature varies greatly, regardless of aging.

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