/ Ageing Parents

4 tips to help you deal with stubbornness as your parents age

If your parents seem to become more and more stubborn as they age, don’t despair, you are not alone. A new study by Penn State was recently published in the Journals of Gerontology: Psychology Sciences which explored stubbornness and the struggle for independence many older adults face as they try to maintain the life they had and the people they were.

As explained in a Penn State News article Three-fourths of children and two-thirds of aging parents in the sample say that stubborn behaviour such as insisting, resisting or persisting is happening sometimes. From the findings of this research we have come up with some top tips to best deal with stubborn behaviour.

1. Understand why there is stubbornness

If there is a conversation that keeps getting a stubborn response you need to change the way you talk about it or get to the heart of why there is resistance for example is it the way you are addressing the issue or the actual topic itself. Understanding why parents may be “insisting, resisting, or persisting in their ways or opinions,” the study reads, can lead to better communication. Zarit who conducted the study’s advice to the adult child: “Do not pick arguments. Do not make a parent feel defensive. Plant an idea, step back, and bring it up later. Be patient.”

2. Don’t take it personally

The study also found that that adult children link perceptions of parent stubbornness with how children see their relationships with their parents, but parents link their perceptions to who they are as people. The strong desire older people have to hold onto their independence is often the driving force behind stubbornness and not a reaction to the children and /or what they are suggesting.

3. Talk about goals

Speak openly about the goals you both have, especially when it comes to care options this includes long term goals such as staying at home vs residential aged care and short term goals on the day to day running of their lives. Allison Heid, project director, New Jersey Institute for Successful Aging, Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine and recent Penn State Ph.D. recipient comments on this "Helping families learn how to talk about older adults' preferences and about goal differences may be important in helping families best support older adults,"

4. Keep lines of communication open

Don’t be scared off by stubborn and resistant responses and think there is no way to get through to ageing parents. It is par for the course as their life stage transitions from independence to dependence and as Heid explains "For families providing support to an older adult, this work confirms that these behaviors happen, but also that there is room for continued communication to ensure that there are shared goals in care and support."