Living with a Difficult Aged Parent


With life expectancy increasing, where mom will live is becoming a big question. Many seniors are moving into their adult children’s homes. Living with an aged parent has its joys, but it also has challenges. But how do you live with a difficult elderly parent?

Living with a difficult aged parent starts with everyone treating each other as adults. The dynamics have changed, but treating the aged parent as a parent will help relieve tensions. There are techniques to developing and maintaining sound relationships.

The decision to combine households is a big one. Both you and your parent may be experiencing some trepidation. This new living arrangement is especially challenging when the aged parent is difficult to deal with. Let’s dive in and discuss how to cope with and flourish while living with your, not so easy, aged parent.

How to Deal with Stubborn Aged Parents

Stubborn behavior in an aged parent is a control issue. Through the aging process they have lost a lot of control. By being stubborn about issues, even if they seem trivial, it’s a way of taking back control. Giving a stubborn parent a choice can often help an aged parent redeem some power.

Everyone, young or old, wants choices in their life. When you ask a yes or no question, there’s a 50 percent chance, “no” will be the answer. Those aren’t great odds for a yes. Instead of asking, “Are you going to take your medication?”, offer them a choice. “Do you want to take your medication with juice or water?” or “Do you want to take your medication now or wait 10 minutes?”

Either way, you haven’t boxed them in by forcing them to do something they don’t want. It’s not black or white. You’ve given them the power to tell you when or how they will take their meds. Notice, not taking the meds isn’t an option.

This technique can be done with just about any question or decision. For example, “Do you want a bath or a shower?” comes off a lot easier than “Do you want a bath.” This is especially vital if your aged parent doesn’t cooperate around bath time.

Choices will nick away at your elderly parent’s stubbornness. It won’t eliminate it completely, but you’ll have a lot less conflict, or at least not hear the word “no” as often.

How to Live with Manipulative Elderly Parents

Living with a manipulative aged parent requires a firm sense of self-worth. An aged parent uses personal attacks or withholding love to gain the upper hand. The adult must realize that they are not a child and that the aged parent is not in charge. Walk away from a hurtful situation.

Manipulative parents aim to diminish self-esteem and invalidate their children’s feelings to achieve a goal. If someone is manipulative as an aged parent, they might have been the same when they were younger. It’s easy to go back in time and feel like you’re a teenager again. You aren’t. Your aged parent can’t take anything away from you. It’s a bluff.

When your mother says, “I’m sorry I’m such a burden on you,” do you automatically say, “no you’re not,” and give in to her whim? Ignore it. Don’t respond.  Instead, carry on your conversation as if nothing was said. It doesn’t matter how many times it comes up.

If your father says, “You’re a terrible daughter,” just answer, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Then go on with your conversation or action.

Don’t let your aged parent bait you. You can either not respond to their comments or you can walk away. But don’t give them control over your emotions. With two adults, no one should be in control.

An already manipulative parent will usually become worst when they first move in. They lost some control of their life when they moved into yours, and they’ll want to regain it immediately. Without having a confrontation, ignore or walk away from their power moves. It may never stop completely, but it will lessen.

How to Live with Negative Elderly Parents

When living with negative aged parents, be aware of when it started. Find underlying issues. Determine the difference between attitude, pain, or depression. Perceived loss of control is another reason. Once you know the cause, address your response. Don’t be baited or succumb to the negativity.

If your parent moved in after the death of a spouse, there’s bound to be some negativity. This is because they have just had a severe loss. Depression and loneliness may be the reason for the negative attitude. And although they have this attitude, in reality, they are asking for help.

You’ll notice phrases like “Why me” and “what’s the point.” This is a time to listen and not just say things will be ok. It’s not ok; they just lost their spouse. If you suspect depression, take your parent to a doctor. They’ll resist, but it’s best to let a professional diagnosis and offer the treatment.

If your parent has chronic pain or new pain, this will cause a negative attitude. Keep in mind, their bad personality traits will probably be magnified, so prepare for more negativity than usual.  Don’t take it personally. Easy to say but think in terms of your parent talking to the pain-not you.

Don’t criticize how your parent is dealing with their pain, or worst yet, tell them not to be negative. But let them know you’ll help them wherever you can. That means going back to the doctor for other alternatives. It also means taking a supportive position and asking what you can do to help.

When moving in with you and your family, a perceived loss of independence or control is often felt by the aged parent. This is particularly true if they’re not able to drive anymore. If you were forced to take the keys away, negative feelings and comments are sure to manifest themselves.  Give that independence back. Set your parent up with a prepaid Uber account or limousine service. They may never use it, but they’ll know they have the option.

Negativity is just another way of saying, “I need help.” Look for the underlying reasons and explore ways to eliminate them.

Both Your Aged Parent and You are Adults

Your parent may be difficult; aging is a scary process. So don’t you follow suit and be difficult too. You can’t control your aged parent, but you can certainly control your response to their actions and comments.

Your parents helped shape you, but you’ve come a long way since high school. Leave any baggage behind and make sure you’re approaching them as the adult you’ve evolved into. Life will go a lot smoother for both of you.

Anne Johnson

Anne is both a writer and a Nana. She attended University of Akron and went on to have a career in television sales. She now writes and promotes the multigenerational lifestyle. Currently she resides in South Carolina with her husband, two cats, a horse and fabulous grands.

Recent Posts