Tips for Aging Parents Who Don’t Listen
Adult children are finding that their aging Moms and Dads don’t always know best when it comes to driving, diet, housing, caregiving, health, medication or other important issues.
A recent survey conducted by Penn State University, the New Jersey Institute for Successful Aging and the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, found that 77% of grown children think their parents are stubborn about taking their advice or getting help with daily problems.
My brother, sisters and I could write a book on our parent’s stubbornness. Until her recent passing, my mother and father lived together in a three story 1890’s Victorian home, with steep stairs and narrow hallways. In addition to Alzheimer’s disease, Mom also suffered with C.O.P.D. You can well imagine how difficult it was to maneuver her oxygen tank and assorted tubing around in that house. Nevertheless, they refused to scale down or hire someone to help with her care or their house.
Even after several near death experiences because of her contacting pneumonia and bronchitis, she continued to decline help. As their children, we finally overrode their decision and hired both a day and night nurse for her. It may sound awful to say, but mom was so mean to them that every one of them quit. In the end, her condition deteriorated to the point that there was nothing to do. We moved her into assisted care where she survived for one month. I only say this so that you’ll understand how long my parents postponed getting help.
With mom’s passing, dad has made the decision to begin scaling back and to sell the house. He plans to move into a private apartment on my sister’s property. What a relief!
So, what can we do when our parents are making bad lifestyle decisions?
Here are some tips compiled by experts on the subject. (Though some advice may not apply directly to an individual with Alzheimer’s, these tips are nevertheless worthy of consideration, based on your specific situation.)
Experts recommend:
1. Trying to understand the motivation behind their behavior. Ask yourself: Are they acting this way out of habit, to assert independence, or because they’re depressed or confused? What are they afraid of?
2. Decide how important the matter is. Is it a safety issue or something that is just irritating but inconsequential? As the saying goes, pick your battles.
3. Blame it on the kids (that would be you) or the grandkids. If Mom isn’t willing to change her behavior for herself, would she do it for a loved one? Try saying to your parent, “You don’t want me to worry, right? This (fill in the blank) will give me enormous peace of mind. Please do it for me!”
4. Think ahead. Is there a milestone they want to be around for, such as a wedding, graduation or anniversary? Then bring it up!
5. Find an outside outlet for your feelings. If you’re angry or resentful that Dad’s not with the program, vent to, confide in, or strategize with, a geriatric care manager, geriatrician, therapist, friend, sibling or online support group rather than your parents.
6. Treat them like the adults they are. Remember that dealing with a stubborn parent is not the same as dealing with a stubborn child. Older people should be autonomous.”
7. Accept the situation. You may want your mantra to be “It is what it is.” They are adults with the right to make decisions – even poor ones.”
8. Don’t beat yourself up. There isn’t a lot we can do sometimes but stand by, watch closely and be able to jump in when needed.”
I recently had a conversation with a friend, who was complaining about her children. My response was, if you think raising kids is difficult, try raising an adult. Hoping you find one or two of these tips helpful.
Ron Gregory
President and Founder
Alzheimer’s Music Connect

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