It used to be that your father was the ultimate authority figure in the house. You listened and you let him lead. But with the passing of time, the roles reverse, even if the attitudes don’t.
For children of elderly parents, and for the parents themselves, this transition and reversal of roles can be a difficult one to adopt. Particularly for sons caring for an elderly father.
Understanding some essentials can help you navigate this new caregiving role with more ease and with a few less growing pains.
Here are some tips that can help.
Appeal to your father’s paternal instinct.
For years and years, your father was the one who needed to be in control to stay ahead of the bills and to earn a living to keep a roof over your head. Giving up the mindset of control is not something easy for anyone to do, let alone a person who has been in a position of authority for most of his life.
So when you broach a topic with your father, and he refuses to listen, what do you do then? For example, you might want your father to learn more about assisted living but he believes he can still care for himself.
Appeal to his responsibility as a father by making a point of how you as his child would worry if he is not well taken care of. This can help him shift his thinking about his personal care to how it will affect his children.
Bring in the big guns.
When aging parents are unable to view their children as adults in their own right, it can be doubly hard for them to listen to any advice they have to offer.
Sound familiar? If you are going through a situation like this, but you know there is an aspect of their health or financial situation that needs attention, what should you do? Consider bringing in a professional.
It will likely be easier for your father to take the advice of a medical professional or a financial planner who has the credentials to go with what they dish out.
Look for a priest or a pastor to provide emotional or mental support. Find a nutritionist or a doctor for diet and fitness counsel. The list goes on.
Give it time.
It can feel frustrating when your father refuses to see how the changes you are proposing are all with his good in mind.
But you have had 30 to 40 years where you and your dad established a certain way of interacting and behavior. Likely this did not involve you giving advice and him listening. Do not expect this to change overnight.
Go slowly and try to practice patience as you work on areas to improve your father’s health and care. Try different tactics and be tactful. Everyone has a measure of pride and dignity that they need in order to carry them over and through life’s little bumps in the road.
If at all possible, avoid denting his sense of self. This will require respect, consideration, and skill on your part. Often it will mean strategizing and patience. Offer options. Be a source of information and helpfulness.
Ask others to check you when you start to come across overbearing. Remember, tact is more effective than strong-arming.
Start picking up the slack in areas that you see your father is not getting to. Do it without asking for permission. And when asked why you are doing it, give him an answer that will allow him to keep his dignity.
Accept areas where your father will not change.
Even the best arguments are no match for a person who has his mind made up. And this is the case, even if you feel certain your father is about to make a regrettable decision.
If you have tried all other means of honest persuasion, and he has failed to budge on his position, then it is time for you to be Zen. What will be, will be.
No matter how painful it feels, accept his decision and love him anyway. This is the ultimate in role reversals. Likely, there was a time in your own life where you made a decision that he felt strongly against. Hopefully, he accepted your decision and loved and supported you regardless.
As long as he is not in danger of hurting others or himself, he has the right to make his own decisions without interference.
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