Help for Caregivers: Dealing with Defiant Parents

November 7th, 2012 by @lamberts

November is National Family Caregivers Month, and we couldn’t be more proud of the selfless men and women who devote their lives caring for family members and loved ones.   Most caregivers can tell you, caregiving is not for the faint of heart.  Caregiving is a demanding job even in the best of circumstances.  A common question we hear is how a caregiver can handle someone who has become defiant, confused, delusional, angry, or even abusive.

Those negative behaviors can take an extreme toll on the caregiver, leaving them hurt, burned out, depressed, and perhaps guilty if they grow to resent their role.  In earlier posts, we’ve talked about the importance of caring for the caregiver and implementing specific, tactical measures to protect yourself and equip your family for the long-haul that caregiving can be.  This is critical since caregiving is a marathon, not a sprint, for many.  It requires thoughtful and deliberate measures to keep the caregiver from feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and hopeless.

Homecare Advocate Blog: Help for Caregivers, Dealing with Defiant Parents

Some great resources for caregivers dealing with difficult people include:

I came across a blog post earlier today by a woman frustrated with the responsibilities of caring for her verbally abusive parents.  She explained, “I will continue to be a good daughter and help as long as I can because I have accepted the fact that things will probably not change for me. But I do not want to act the same way they are acting when I get old. I read so many letters here about people with terrible issues as they try to handle their aging parents.  I do not want to be like that.

A thoughtful commenter wrote back, suggesting that she make a list of the behaviors she promises herself she will and will not do once she is older and receiving care. I love this idea because it uses these negative experiences as teachable moments for us to apply to our own lives and futures.  For example, who wants to be around Cathy, the Constant Complainer?  While Cathy is telling everyone what isn’t right, what hurts, and what isn’t good enough, she may fail to realize how she’s pushing everyone away.  If one hears Cathy’s complaints day in and out, we’re more aware of our own grumps and are mindful not to sound like Cathy.  Nobody wants to hear a Constant Complainer.  Likewise, we know not to be like Stubborn Stan, David the Disastrous Driver, or Ungrateful Ursula.

My questions for you today:

What kind of letter would you write?  What would you want to remember?  How do you want to be remembered?

As a caregiver, you’ve seen your fair share.  It isn’t always easy, and your contributions are often a “labor of love”.  We invite you to leave a comment sharing your list and any of your own tried-and-true tips for caregivers facing difficult parents.

Also, make a conscious effort to remember the sweet moments that make caregiving fulfilling. Unexpected gifts of banana bread, thoughtful clippings from the newspaper, laughing at memories from long ago and inside jokes that only family can appreciate all serve as reminders of the love and history you share.

“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worth of praise” (Philippians 4:8b).


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