How To Deal With Stubborn Senior Parents | Grace & Patience

How To Deal With Stubborn Senior Parents

Oh boy, you are navigating the maze of how to deal with stubborn senior parents, right? It’s like trying to convince a cat to take a bath – a slippery, complex task filled with potential misunderstandings. But why do our dear old folks, who’ve nurtured us, often become resistant to our guidance as they age? Let’s embark on this enlightening journey.

Understanding Their Perspective

how to deal with stubborn senior parents

Firstly, let’s put on their shoes. Aging is not just a physical process; it’s an emotional and psychological journey. Imagine navigating through life, building skills, and forging independence for decades. You’ve faced wars, recessions, and societal changes. You’ve raised children, lost loved ones, celebrated milestones, and built a reservoir of memories.

Then, as the years roll on, the very essence of what made you feel competent and self-reliant starts to wane. Your once-sharp memory might blur, or those sturdy legs that climbed mountains now wobble on a flight of stairs.

Such transitions can be jarring, much like mastering the intricacies of an intricate video game only to have someone alter the rules or change the controls without warning. This shift can lead to feelings of vulnerability, loss, and even denial. It’s not just about aging; it’s about reconciling with a new version of oneself amidst these changes.

So, when we notice resistance or what appears as ‘stubbornness’ in our senior loved ones, it might simply be their way of grappling with these changes while trying to retain a semblance of the self they’ve always known.

The Psychology Behind The Stubbornness

Delving into the psychology of aging, one discovers a web of emotions and experiences that lead to what many perceive as stubbornness in seniors. The golden years are often juxtaposed with multifaceted challenges — both physical and mental.

Just as a young child resists bedtime because it symbolizes an end to fun, adventure, and discovery, seniors might resist certain changes because they signify a diminishing sense of autonomy. Fear of losing independence, compounded by society’s perceptions of aging, is a profound factor.

As physical capabilities wane and cognitive functions might not be as agile, there’s an underlying dread of becoming burdensome or being viewed as frail. Moreover, these years also come with a series of losses – friends, family, and sometimes, purpose.

Each resistance or act of “stubbornness” can be a silent protest, a desperate clutch to the familiar, or even a defense mechanism to guard their emotional well-being. So, when our elderly loved ones dig their heels in over seemingly trivial matters, it’s often a manifestation of deeper, unvoiced concerns or an innate desire to hold onto the independence that has defined their identity for so long.

Effective Communication: The Golden Key

In the realm of senior care, where emotions and vulnerabilities are heightened, effective communication stands as the linchpin. While many of us have been taught the mechanics of speaking and listening, genuine communication delves deeper. It’s not just about transferring information; it’s about understanding emotions, validating feelings, and fostering trust.

Especially with seniors, who might already feel sidelined by the rapid pace of our digital world, the manner in which we convey our thoughts is paramount. A command might meet resistance, but a suggestion can open doors.Here are some methods to consider:

Involve Them, Don’t Sideline

Stubborn Senior Parents

At the core of human desire is the innate need to feel valued and involved, a sentiment that doesn’t wane with age. As our parents and elderly loved ones transition into their later years, there’s a palpable risk of them feeling marginalized. Their life, once brimming with decisions and responsibilities, may now seem relegated to the whims of younger family members.

In senior care, it’s paramount to recognize that though their pace might have slowed, their need for inclusion hasn’t. Sidestepping their input or making decisions without their consultation can inadvertently exacerbate feelings of isolation and redundancy.

By involving them in choices, be it about their daily routine, medical care, or living arrangements, we reaffirm their significance in the family fabric. It’s analogous to a team huddle before a significant game; every player’s input is vital, and everyone needs to be on board with the strategy. Ensuring our elderly are not just informed but are active contributors to decisions about their life not only fosters mutual respect but also aids in smoother transitions and implementations. After all, when we feel ownership over a choice, we’re more likely to embrace its outcome.

Professional Assistance: Calling The Experts

Journeying through the nuances of senior care can sometimes feel like navigating a labyrinth. While our deep-seated love and familiarity with our elderly loved ones provide valuable insights, there are moments when professional expertise is not just beneficial, but crucial. Geriatric specialists, with their vast experience and deep understanding of aging, can offer guidance tailored to individual needs.

Their neutrality serves a dual purpose. First, they present an unbiased assessment, unaffected by familial histories or emotions. Second, their expert status often lends their recommendations greater weight in the eyes of our loved ones. Recall those childhood days when the same advice, once uttered by a teacher, suddenly gained unparalleled importance, despite our parents singing the same tune for weeks?

Similarly, seniors, who might initially be resistant to suggestions from family, may view the same recommendations differently when they come from a recognized expert in the field. Thus, in the intricate dance of senior care, having a geriatric specialist in your corner can be akin to having a seasoned choreographer guiding the steps, ensuring each move is as smooth and informed as possible.

Prioritize Safety Over Preference

As the adage goes, “Safety first.” In the realm of senior care, this often means striking a balance between respecting personal preferences and ensuring the well-being of our loved ones. Aging can be a tricky terrain, dotted with subtle compromises and readjustments. While it’s essential to preserve a senior’s autonomy and self-esteem, there come moments when safety undeniably trumps preference.

It’s much like parenting in reverse; as children, we didn’t always understand why certain rules were in place, but our parents enforced them, recognizing the risks we couldn’t see. Mismatched socks or a preference for a particular meal? Those are benign choices that give seniors a sense of control and individuality. However, when it comes to critical safety concerns like using mobility aids, taking prescribed medications, or avoiding certain physical activities, the stakes are high.

These aren’t merely choices; they’re lifelines that can dramatically affect their quality of life. In such instances, it’s imperative to stand firm, ensuring their safety isn’t compromised. It might entail challenging conversations or seeking professional advice, but the goal remains unwavering: safeguarding their well-being, even if it means overriding personal preferences occasionally.

Create A Supportive Environment

The environment around us has a profound impact on our well-being, both mentally and physically. As seniors age, their relationship with their surroundings evolves. Spaces that once felt familiar and safe might now pose challenges or hazards. Recognizing and adapting to these changes is a pivotal aspect of senior care. Crafting a supportive environment goes beyond mere aesthetics; it’s about facilitating ease, comfort, and safety.

Much like how parents childproof their homes to protect curious toddlers from unforeseen risks, the needs of seniors require a similar, albeit different, kind of attention. Maybe it means installing grab bars in the bathroom, ensuring adequate lighting in all rooms, removing tripping hazards like loose rugs, or rearranging furniture to create clearer walkways. But it’s not just about physical modifications. A supportive environment also caters to their emotional needs.

Surrounding them with familiar objects, cherished photographs, or even playing their favorite music can evoke feelings of comfort and belonging. By marrying functionality with familiarity, we not only enhance their safety but also bolster their sense of independence and connection. In essence, it’s about transforming their living space into a haven where they can navigate confidently and feel truly at home.

Empower, Don’t Patronize

In the continuum of life, seniors have journeyed through epochs that many of us can only read about. They’ve witnessed revolutions, transitions, and evolution in ways that have shaped the tapestry of their experiences. But, with the swift rise of technology, particularly in the last few decades, they’ve also encountered a world that’s vastly different from the one they once knew.

While they hail from times of encyclopedias and handwritten letters, today’s instant gratification era of Google searches and digital information can sometimes be overwhelming for them. When guiding our elderly loved ones through modern challenges, the approach matters immensely. Instead of patronizingly taking the reins, the key lies in empowering them with knowledge. Take the time to explain, teach, and guide them through the nuances of today’s world.

Whether it’s showing them how to video call a distant relative, helping them understand a medical report, or just introducing them to the wonders of the internet, do so with patience and respect. By empowering them, we not only enhance their confidence but also acknowledge and honor the wisdom and experiences they bring to the table. The goal is to bridge the knowledge gap without overshadowing their vast reservoir of life experiences. After all, empowerment fosters independence and resilience, attributes that are invaluable at any age.

Activities: Engage The Mind & Body

Activity, both mental and physical, is the cornerstone of well-being, regardless of age. As our loved ones step into the golden years, the significance of engaging pursuits becomes even more pronounced. While the body might experience limitations, the mind’s thirst for stimulation and the soul’s yearning for connection remain vibrant. Engaging activities tailored to a senior’s interests and capabilities can rejuvenate their spirit, fostering a sense of purpose and fulfillment.

Imagine introducing grandma to a pottery class, where she shapes clay with stories of her past, or guiding grandpa through gentle stretches, each pose echoing with decades of wisdom. These activities aren’t just hobbies; they’re bridges to enhanced cognitive function, improved physical health, and enriched emotional well-being. Beyond traditional pastimes like knitting or chess, the world brims with endless possibilities.

Digital photography, culinary experiments, gardening, or even learning a new language – the horizon is vast. By tapping into their latent talents or exploring new territories with them, we not only bolster their health but also gift them with the joy of discovery. And there’s a dual reward: witnessing the sheer delight of a senior mastering a new skill or diving into a new passion is a heartwarming reminder of the timeless human potential.

Patience: Your Best Companion

Navigating the intricacies of senior care is akin to treading a path filled with both sunshine and shadows. Amid the heartwarming moments and the invaluable lessons they offer, there are bound to be challenges that test your resolve. And in these trials, patience emerges as the most steadfast companion. Think of patience not just as a virtue, but as a bridge to understanding, a salve for wounds, and a key to unlocking deeper connections.

Each time you feel impatience simmering, hark back to your own childhood. Recall the countless stumbles when learning to walk, the grazed knees from failed bike-riding attempts, and the unending cascade of questions about the world. In those moments, our senior loved ones, with their reservoirs of patience, stood by us, guiding, supporting, and often simply waiting. They weathered our tantrums, celebrated our smallest achievements, and held our hands through the maze of growing up.

As roles reverse and they step into the vulnerabilities of age, it’s our turn to return the favor. Channeling the boundless patience of a monk, or the gentle perseverance they once showered upon us, ensures that we approach their challenges with empathy, understanding, and most importantly, unwavering love. Remember, patience isn’t just about waiting; it’s about how we wait and the compassion we exude in the process.

Final Thoughts on How To Deal With Stubborn Senior Parents

Dealing with stubborn senior parents is a dance, a delicate tango of understanding, patience, and love. As we wrap up this enlightening journey, always remember the essence of our discourse today: treat them with the respect and tenderness they once showered upon us.


Q1: Why are some senior parents so resistant to change?

Change can be overwhelming, especially when one has been set in their ways for decades.

Q2: How can I ensure my parent’s safety without being overbearing?

Involve them in safety decisions and prioritize crucial matters over personal preferences.

Q3: Do all seniors become stubborn?

Not necessarily. Everyone ages differently, both mentally and physically.

Q4: Can professional counseling help?

Yes, a neutral third-party perspective can often be beneficial.

Q5: How can I foster better communication with my senior parents?

Listen actively, speak empathetically, and ensure they feel involved.


  1. Understanding and Dealing with Resistant Parents
  2. The Psychology of Aging
  3. Communication Strategies with Seniors
  4. The Importance of Activities for Seniors


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