The Big “S” word. It comes up more often than you would think and for good reason. Adult children who are in any phase of caregiving for their parents, even in the very beginning stages share their frustrations of their parents suddenly being stubborn. Why is this happening?
Let’s think about the role reversal that is taking place, either gradually over time or suddenly due to a change in physical or cognitive health. This role reversal leads to confusion and is never a natural shift for adult children, spouses or other loved ones. As difficult as this is for the caregiver it much harder for the care receiver.
What is actually happening and why does stubborn behavior from even the most agreeable of people send shock waves through the family? Imagine if you will, what it might feel like to witness yourself the lack of independence taking place in your own life. It might be in the form of having someone telling you that it’s time to stop driving, that someone may need to start helping you bathe, “helping” pay your bills or accompany you to regular doctor visits.
It doesn’t matter what the level is at which children, spouses or others find themselves in the position to help out, all of these point to one huge signal to the one needing assistance -loss of independence, decision making and privacy! For older adults that have had a lifetime of child-rearing, careers, active lives of giving and nurturing others, imagine what it feels like to have someone ( a loved one no less!) tell you that it’s time to turn in the keys.
Like all behaviors, there is an underlying reason. Underneath a stubborn older adult is someone clinging to what independence they can shelter for themselves, the fear of what tomorrow will bring, and sadness for what they are leaving behind.
As families struggle with this stubborn syndrome, please step into the shoes of the person you are trying to help. Kindness, gentleness and empathy go a long way in dealing with difficult life changes. Family meetings that include the care receiver (if this is possible) is always advised.
Above all, caregivers should be educated and seek help from others who are traveling the same road. Be prepared for this stubborn behavior to be a new normal, but also know that with the right approach, you can get through the hurdles together and get through this journey with strength and grace.
Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate® Training Institute. A passionate advocate for older adults and those that care for them, Pam is a dynamic speaker, trainer and facilitator and has worked with thousands of caregivers, older adults and hundreds of organizations to help others through the caregiving journey.