August 7, 2017 by Dean Bellefeuille

Caring for Seniors Controlling Behavior

Feeling safe, protected and cared for is so wonderful. Dads and moms thrive on ensuring their young children are enveloped within the comfort of knowing their needs will be satisfied, providing the safety net that permits them the self-confidence to explore the world about them. Yet there comes a phase in all children’s lives when the craving for self-sufficiency outweighs the benefit of protection, and they have to discover firsthand what it means to stumble, fall and get back up again by themselves.

These types of protective instincts usually kick in once again for adult children when they begin caring for senior loved ones. We wish to help them limit risks, to ensure that they’re safe from harm. However at the same time, it’s all too easy to fall into a pattern of overprotectiveness or controlling behavior if we’re not careful, which can lead to feelings of anger along with resentment on the part of the elderly parents.

According to professor of human development and family studies at Pennsylvania State University Steven Zarit, “One of the scariest things to people as they age is that they don’t feel in control anymore. So if you tell your dad not to go out and shovel snow, you assume that he’ll listen. It’s the sensible thing. But his response will be to go out and shovel away … It’s a way of holding on to a life that seems to be slipping back.”

Research recently explored the effect of stubbornness in older adults’ relationships with their adult children. Even though the elders were less likely to rate themselves as coming across as stubborn, their younger family members more often considered stubbornness as an issue. The key for adult children is in knowing their parents’ reason behind digging in their heels to hold onto their freedom and autonomy, and to refrain from quarrelling and generating an attitude of defensiveness. Clear, open and honest communication among both sides can go some distance towards smoothing the waters and making sure everyone is listened to and understood.

So what is the easiest method to take care of our older loved ones without seeking to control them? A good dose of patience, respect and empathy can go far. Placing yourself in the older adult’s shoes and understanding the importance of independence will allow for adult children to step back, rather than stepping in. Give the extra time an older adult needs to accomplish a task, instead of doing the work for the person. Consistently seek out opportunities to show the older person you appreciate his or her suggestions and guidance. For more tips on offering senior care that doesn’t cross the line into controlling behavior, or respite care services that can help family caregivers take a break from care duties, contact At Home Independent Living, the Syracuse in home care company of choice.