For many of us who are caring for an aging parent, convincing them to “go with the flow” (read: do things differently) is a challenge to say the least.
Resistance to new things and routines, particularly when it involves accepting help from others, is pretty deeply rooted in human nature in general. These characteristics intensify as we get older.
This is a topic near and dear to our hearts right now, so we felt it’s a good time to bring up a few points that may shed some understanding on why our aging parents resist change, and how we can make it easier for them and those who love them.
It really doesn’t matter how old you are, change is uncomfortable. For some, it’s downright terrifying, and many of us do what we can to avoid it. Take that and multiply it by 20, and chances are, that’s how much more difficult change is for your parents.
So what to do about it? The best you can with what you’ve got.
Gather up all the possible details you can about each change as it arises. Begin with what they’re having the most difficulty processing, and communicate about it. What can you do to make them feel as empowered and in control as possible?
Preparing them to the best of your ability and finding the ways they can handle changes on their own will give them a strong start when heading into uncharted waters, regardless of how shallow they may seem.
Remind them that change is inevitable for us all. The universe makes change in our lives every day without waiting for us or asking what we think about it. We do, however, have control over how we get involved with and respond to that change.
Also remind them that your life is changing too, and you’re in it together. If you can provide some humorous, self-deprecating anecdotes, make that happen. Laughter almost always takes the sting out of uncertainty just a little bit.
Habit provides us with a measure of comfort, but to ageing people, habit can literally be an issue of physical safety. With the diminishment of balance, sensory acuity, and memory, major changes in routine can be more than uncomfortable, they can be dangerous.
Think about how your parent’s house is arranged. Most likely, it’s been the same for years, and they’ll know where every piece of furniture is located, where they can find whatever they need in the pantry, the easiest places to switch on the lights, etc. Activities like these become subconsciously learned and muscle memory is involved in the whole process.
If your parent(s) have lived in the same home for a long time, chances are, they know their neighbors, their mail carriers, garbage collectors, and anyone else associated with the neighborhood.
It’s no wonder that, despite the round the clock care and fancy amenities of a senior living facility, many parents would rather stay home. Moving to a new place full of people they don’t know can be more isolating than living alone in a house they’ve owned for years.
New devices designed to make a senior citizen’s life easier can be the best thing ever, or a nightmare. More often than not, your parent’s understanding and interpretation of these things is what can make or break something new more than the product itself.
Public enemy number one? Tech devices.
There are so many devices out there to help the elderly stay in touch with friends and family, read their favorite books, take their meds on time, navigate the remote to the tv, all kinds of voice-navigated stuff, the list goes on and on. If you can imagine it, it’s probably been patented.
Don’t get us wrong, this is amazing. No one is more excited about advancements in technology that help keep our elderly loved ones safe and comfortable than we are, but it’s really important to consider what they’ll think about it. Particularly when it becomes an everyday practicality.
A close second, (some would argue it comes in at number one) is a new car. If your parents are still driving, getting acclimated to a new car- no matter how much you try to match it to their old car, can be a serious source of frustration.
Again, these situations have to be approached from the perspective of your parents. What we think of as a convenience or quick fix to something may only serve to make things worse in the long run. It never hurts to ask ourselves: “Is this for them, or is it for us?”
There are times when we’ll have to take the wheel, no if’s and’s or but’s about it. It’s up to us to make sure our parents know why and what to expect. They need to feel secure that they can, and should, communicate openly with us about their wishes and whenever possible, we’ll always put them first.
Try to cultivate feelings of optimism when it comes to change if at all possible. They may not buy into it at first, but it doesn’t hurt to remind them that with change comes new possibilities. If it’s approached with a lot of care and consideration, it can even be downright rewarding.