3 Things You Should Never Say to Your Aging Parents

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Taking care of your senior parents comes with many joys, but it can also come with certain challenges. On the one hand, when your parents reach retirement age, your whole family is able to spend more time together – and that’s a beautiful thing! On the other hand, your parents growing older can prompt worries about their mobility, memory, independence, and ability to continue living alone.  

So many of us have experienced dealing with stubborn senior parents, it’s almost a cliche at this point. When starting the conversation about your concerns, it’s important to approach them from a place of empathy and understanding. Some adult children become argumentative and make their senior parents feel disrespected, resulting in them resisting their efforts even more. 

Here at UMC, we understand having difficult conversations with your older parents can be stressful or uncomfortable, but your approach can make all the difference in getting them the care they deserve. From our experience, here are three things you should never say to your senior parents. 

“You always tell me the same story!” 

Just because your senior parent repeats the same few stories over and over again doesn’t necessarily mean they are experiencing memory problems. It’s normal for our favorite memories to stand out above the rest, and when telling stories from our past, it’s also typical to share our favorite ones. You may even be guilty of repeating the same story several times yourself! 

When you say, “You always tell me the same story,” your parents might hear, “I don’t want to listen or care about this story you’re sharing with me.” It can come across as rude and dismissive. More importantly, it can easily hurt their feelings. Instead of getting impatient that your parents are telling you the same story, you can redirect the conversation and ask your parents questions about things they’ve never told you before. For example: What’s a great memory from one of your birthdays? What was your favorite childhood family vacation?

“You can’t live alone anymore.” 

Older adults are often very wary of losing their independence. They live in a world that often infantilizes them due to their age. That being said, if you bluntly tell your aging parents that you don’t think they can live alone anymore, they might get combative and defensive – even if you suggest that they move in with you. 

Instead, sit down with your senior parents and express your concerns gently and compassionately. Tell them you’re afraid something might happen to them and you won’t be there to help them. They may have friends or neighbors who check in on them regularly, or they may be open to changing their living arrangements or considering a home care aide. This is also a good opportunity to discuss having an emergency alert system installed in their home or purchasing a wearable alert device. 

“You’re too old to drive.”

If you notice your parents aren’t able to drive as well as they did a few years ago, it’s time to evaluate their ability to be behind the wheel. Seniors are often very resistant to giving up their car keys, but unfit drivers are extremely dangerous to themselves and others. 

You can start by discussing how many accidents and reckless drivers you’ve seen on the road lately, then gently segue into their ability to maneuver the car. Most adult children rely on a third party, like a doctor or a physical therapist, to help convince their aging parents that it’s no longer safe for them to drive. You can reassure your loved one that you’ll help them set up alternate transportation options, such as a schedule of family or friends who can assist or a taxi or ride share service.

For more support on caring for your aging parents, or if you have any questions about our full-service assisted living communities in NJ, please contact our team at UMC today and visit our website at: https://umcommunities.org.

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