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Kathy Barthel Headshot

My Parents Are Driving Me Crazy!

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Your parents have always been the adults. They raised you. They dealt with illnesses, job losses and money issues. They did it all.

Now you've become their caregiver because they can no longer maintain their house as easily, can't drive or have trouble remembering things. But all they do is snap at you.

  • You buy Meals on Wheels for your parents and they won't eat them.
  • You hire someone to help them shower and they send her away.

  • You order a taxi to take them grocery shopping but they won't use it because it'll cost $6.00!

"Mom and dad are driving me nuts!" you sputter. "How can they be so picky? I'm swamped with work, the kids, the house and everything else and this is how they respond? It makes me so angry and then I feel guilty for being angry... but nothing pleases them!"

Stop. Breathe. Think what it would be like to be in their shoes. Can you imagine how humiliating it would be to have a stranger help you to bathe or take you for a ride in your own car because someone decided you were unsafe to drive?

How would you feel? Many of the things you're suggesting require that your parents give up the control and independence they've enjoyed for 60 or 70 or 80 years.

Here are 10 tips that may help:
  1. Involve your parents as much as possible by asking for their opinion.
  2. Give it time. We react to change with our emotions more than with our minds and emotions can be intense. It takes time for these reactions to subside.
  3. Show your parents the advantages of some of the things you're suggesting; it can be easier to accept a new idea if you can see its' benefit.
  4. Never talk down to your parents. Always speak to them one adult to another, with respect.
  5. Don't take their sharpness and lack of cooperation personally. They may be embarrassed and trying to hide their fears by snapping at you.
  6. Realize that this is an opportunity to increase your own compassion.
  7. Ask other relatives whose opinions your parents respect, to talk to them.
  8. Give yourself a reward. After a particularly difficult meeting with your parents, do something nice for yourself -- visit a friend, see a movie or go for a walk.
  9. Call a qualified elder care advisor; many advisors will speak to you for 15 minutes for free. It may be worth the cost to have them meet with you and your parents.
  10. Talk to other adult children who are going through a similar situation.