Dealing with Difficult, Aging Parents

senior woman yelling at daughter

In a study that surveyed adult children, over three out of four (77%) said they believe their parents are stubborn about accepting help. However, the situation isn't hopeless; there is an upside to this statistic, you're not alone in your struggles with aging parents! Interestingly enough, two-thirds of the parents (average age: 80) described themselves as stubborn, too.

But, how do you deal with the topic of home care or nursing home care? We'll break down the common scenarios you may encounter and equip you with tips to help.

Potential Scenarios You May Encounter

It is not uncommon for aging adults and their care providers to feel resentment, anger, or guilt when caring for an aging parent. Aging Care professionals recommend these steps as a way of relieving the stress associated with this responsibility:

potential scenarios you may encounter for stubborn older parents

Anger & Emotional Outbursts

Senior citizens are often angry due to the many indignities that come with aging. Your parents may get angry and have an outburst when you first bring up solutions for improving their quality of life. These feelings can emerge due to underlying chronic pain, loss of friends, and memory issues, leading to resentment in some seniors.

Imagine you are in their shoes, and your mental and/or physical health is deteriorating. What would be a complicated process for someone in this situation? Many older adults struggle with dementia or their mental well-being, including anxiety and depression.

You can help them by taking time to understand how they may feel and share your feelings surrounding their care. There's no easy fix, but understanding each other better will make things easier. Pick your battles, and don't beat yourself up!

Refusing Help

An older adult may require a hired caregiver to provide full-time and long-term support. It can be dangerous to reject this help since it is the only way for them to get around or go grocery shopping, but many parents find that being passed on to an outsider instead of their children isn't something they want.

This stubbornness can also lead to not seeing a specialist when your parents should. This also ties into other issues: fear of things they don't know much about, the fear of dealing with ageism, or an unwillingness for change.

Another important thing people need to understand with older adults refusing medical treatment (when there really shouldn't be) is why the person feels reluctant based on experiences such as past trauma at hospitals; wanting attention rather than feeling ignored by family members; avoiding doctors out of embarrassment given physical changes.

Poor Hygiene

It can be difficult to talk about personal hygiene, especially when it's a conversation you have with your parents, but it's essential for mental and physical health. When someone stops taking care of themselves, it may be a sign of depression or struggle with elderly living conditions that are getting worse.

Diminished Mental Capacity

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 15% of adults aged 60 and over have a mental disorder or a diminished mental capacity. Between 2015 and 2050, the world's population over 60 years will nearly double, from 12% to 22%. Dealing with the issue of diminished mental capacity is a public health problem. Here are a few signs to look for beyond the overall behavioural issues that may lead you to believe that the problem is more severe than just being stubborn and difficult:

  • Memory loss
  • Poor judgment
  • Difficulty grasping simple concepts
  • Mood swings
  • Isolation and losing interest in people
  • Communication challenges
  • Vision impairment

Tips for Coping with Aging Parents

The most difficult realization for aging parents is the need to accept that they can no longer care for themselves and their families. This changes how children remember these last years with them, but it's an unavoidable reality of life as we age.

Aging parents come to realize a harsh truth: They'll eventually develop medical problems or behaviours that require treatment; some may be able to continue in relative comfort, while others will have more difficulty accepting this change. While each situation is different, you can consider some universal tips while dealing with aging parents.

tips for coping with stubborn aging parents

Evaluate Their Medical Condition

It is not uncommon for seniors to have a hard time caring for themselves, and you must keep an eye out. By noticing this change in their physical appearance or behaviour, such as becoming reclusive and losing weight, they may be suffering from something more severe.

Sometimes the negative changes you may be noticing in your loved one are not due to personality or mental issues that come with old age. If their medical care or prescription medicines have changed recently, and you have noticed a pattern of changes in mood, mobility, or even differences in their speech pattern, speak to their doctor about this right away.

Treat Them as Adults

The complexity of the relationship between parents and their children is a rollercoaster. It's tense, it can be awkward at times as you may have switched roles in some ways, but they are still your parents and should always be treated with respect. Don't infantilize them or take on any other role that diminishes who they are to you now.

"Avoid infantilizing your parent," explains Dr. Robert Kane, former director of The Center for Aging at the University of Minnesota. "Dealing with a stubborn parent is not the same as dealing with a stubborn child. Older people should be autonomous. When parents are behaving irrationally, it can be tempting to threaten to move them to a nursing home against their will or insist you know what's best. But these tactics will only drive a wedge between you and your parents."


Communication is a huge part of caring for an elderly parent. Communication can be frustrating as it often requires repeating oneself many times before you get even a glimmer in the eye that they may have heard something, but when done correctly will make things much easier for both parties involved.

One of the most difficult things in life is managing and accepting change, but it can be done patiently. Seeking professional counselling will help you make the best plan for everyone involved, so your family gets through this tough time together.

Enlist the Help of Others

A caregiving journey is always difficult, but it doesn't have to be an isolated experience. Consider taking on tasks with your siblings and see who can meet you halfway in terms of the responsibilities. If that's not possible, find someone outside of the family, such as close friends or neighbours, for support.

Be Patient & Persistent

You don't have to get everything resolved in one sitting. You're probably going to bring up your concerns with them again and again, so be patient - but know that you are not the only person who has trouble communicating their feelings sometimes. You'll likely have to voice your concerns to your parents many times — so be patient. Keep in mind that you want to help your parents, and being patient shows them the respect they deserve.

Provide Different Options

When we take on caring for aging parents, it is not uncommon to feel resentment and anxiety. However, by providing them with multiple care options, you can make them feel like they have the freedom of choice and that their input matters. That being said, it’s still important to set boundaries when it comes to their care.

MIP Solutions

MIP Cares provides solutions that improve quality of life through our range of innovative, protective, and comfortable healthcare products that benefit seniors and caregivers. We invite you to discover our home care line here.