How to Be Patient With Elderly Parents During Difficult Times

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woman shows how to be patient with aging parent with a hand on her shoulder

How to be PatienT with Elderly Parents

Sometimes, we all struggle to be patient with our elderly parents in difficult times. Even the most loving and wonderful caregivers have moments where patience has run thin and exhaustion hits. This is a normal part of the elderly caregiving process, so don’t be too hard on yourself! Disagreements are normal in any family. However, they are uniquely stressful when they happen between our aging parents and us.

For years, our loved ones probably held a leadership role in the family, making decisions for themselves and most likely even you. So, now that you have stepped into that leadership role, this season can feel like quite the role reversal. And that can be understandably stressful for everyone. And with stress comes moments of frustration, impatience, and disagreeableness. 

However, we want to encourage you that this hard season can be worked through. We want to support you in transforming moments of impatience into rejuvenating solutions!

Grownup daughter seems frustrated and struggles to be patient with elderly mother who is upset with her head in her hand

Why does my loved one suddenly seem more difficult?

Often people wonder why their loved one suddenly seems more stubborn, difficult, or stressed. Perhaps these attitudes seem completely out-of-character for your loved one. Yet, there are many reasons why your loved one might be acting differently. Those reasons usually have little to do with them and their actual personality. Rather, some tricky behavioral changes in your parent are likely for medical or psychological causes.

Cognition Changes

Sometimes an aging parent’s demeanor may change due to a new diagnosis around their cognition. Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other medical changes can often cause mood-altering patterns. Anger from forgetfulness or moments of irritability from brain fog are normal symptoms of some diseases. As a caregiver, it can be overwhelming to see a loved one change. Your response of sometimes being frustrated or impatient is understandable and natural.

Emotional Changes

Other times, a loved one could be acting differently or more difficult because the aging process can be scary. Many aging adults feel extreme frustration when their body struggles to keep up with their mind. When everyday things like taking the trash out or cooking dinner become difficult, irritability can follow. 

It is helpful to keep in mind the stress that aging can bring to a loved one. They are going through lots of changes, you both are. So, struggling to be patient with an elderly parent is common with these changes. Sometimes even acknowledging all the transitions you both are going through and talking through them can help release some tension!

daughter who is trying to be patient with elderly mother in a difficult time

How to be Patient with Elderly Parents Who Refuse Help

Sometimes, your patience may run thin when you are trying to care for your loved one, but they refuse your help. This common source of frustration can continue to wear on your patience and energy over time. However, there are ways to mitigate the stress these disagreements cause.

younger woman shows patience with aging adult by having a friendly conversation

Offering help with Patience

Ask Yourself Some Questions

Sometimes when we step into the role of caretaker, we want to immediately do everything for our loved ones. We care so deeply, and we want to make sure our parents are taken care of! Although the intention is good, sometimes we can steamroll over our parent’s sense of independence and purpose. 

First, start by evaluating if the help you’re offering is necessary. Is it necessary for their safety and overall well-being? Or is it simply something that seems more convenient for everyone but maybe isn’t necessary?

For example, your loved one may be refusing your help in installing needed shower safety features. In this case, you would want to continue the conversation so that the shower can become safer. Indeed, this would be a case of necessary help! 

Perhaps your parent refuses to let you go grocery shopping for them because they prefer going with you themselves, even if it is the significantly slower option. This might be a time where their refusal of your help is understandable. The joy and independence they feel going with you might be worth the extra work. When we hear our loved one’s perspective, we often understand their side more, and our patience can be restored!

Younger son has purposeful conversation with elderly father and displays patience in his conversation

Offering Help with patience

Let Them Be the Hero

Even if you have become the caregiver, most aging parents still want to take care of their kids. It may even help them create a sense of normalcy in their lives and remind them of fond times!  So, in moments of conflict over letting you help, make it about you. If you can, reframe the conversation on how they are actually helping you out! You might see a different reaction from your parent.

For instance, explain to your parent how stressed out you are with the kids’ sports schedules this week. Express that they would be doing you a HUGE favor if they let you take their list to the store and shop for them in-between games. Let them be the hero in the family. They might enjoy getting to take care of you for a change!

Family working together at the table

Offering help with patience

Let Them Be Part of the Solution

When we are tired and frustrated, it can be easy to go into problem-solving mode and find a quick solution. We all do this when we love someone! However, it can make your loved one feel dismissed, ignored, or even replaced if you do this too much. 

Understandably, sometimes you need to make quick decisions so that your parent is well cared for. However, in moments where it is appropriate, letting your loved one be part of that process could lessen the stress for everyone. Give your parent options. Let them speak out their preferences and come together on a solution that suits everyone. It can be tricky, but it is more possible than you think!

Using the same example: if your parent truly feels more independent when they go shopping with you, offer them a few options. Are they comfortable going every two weeks instead of every week? Can you both alternate each week when you shop for them and when you shop together? Would they feel equally independent if they managed their own grocery shopper service, with a company doing the delivering, but they get to do the ordering? 

Options allow for compromise, and compromise will lessen feelings of impatience or anger.

Younger women clasps hand of older mother showing patience and love

How Do You Deal with the Stress of Caring for an Elderly Parent?

When you feel like you are at your limit with patience or energy, it might be time to assess your self-care rhythms. While caretaking is a huge part of your life, it is not the only part of your life requiring attention. You can only care for your loved one as well as you are caring for yourself! 

Don’t feel guilty when you need to focus on yourself; one person can only do so much. Self-care is an important part of your caretaking journey, be sure to explore how you can care for yourself well. Likewise, part of that self-care could be needing to set more boundaries.

Elderly woman cheerfully communicates with her family via smartphone instead of in person

How Do You Set Boundaries with Elderly Parents?

Physical Boundaries:

One way to set boundaries is to protect your time, space, and resources. If you feel impatient, overworked, or burnt-out, consider taking some space to assess how you can creatively pull back some. Perhaps take some time off and let a sibling jump in as a caregiver for a week. Or maybe you need to be at your own home more often, so you may need to call your mom more instead of going over to her house daily.

Every situation is different, and you are the expert of your own family! Trust your gut when it comes to boundaries. However, dismiss any guilt you have around setting boundaries. It may be uncomfortable or even painful for your loved one. But, as long as you create alternate plans and communicate with care, you are ultimately doing what is needed. Don’t let guilt get in the way of what is best for you both!

Emotional Boundaries:

It can be tricky to create emotional boundaries with those we love, but it is frequently necessary for the caretaking process. This is especially true if your loved one has become increasingly difficult for whatever reason.

Creating an emotional boundary with our aging parent is often referred to as “detaching with love.” This is a personal process of creating distance between how your loved one acts and how you let it affect you. It requires letting go of moments of hurt or anger and programming your mind not to take them personally or even take them in at all.

Detaching from a difficult aging parent does NOT mean a lessening of love or care. Rather it is freeing your brain from any unintentional hurt they may be throwing your way in this season. This is understandably a challenging process with its ups and downs. However, over time, creating emotional boundaries will still let you love and care for your parent well without exhausting your heart as much. It takes practice, but we’re here to help!

Younger woman happily embraces elderly parent, both showing love and patience

If Your Patience is Wearing thin, We’re Here

We understand that caretaking has its ups and downs. Some days are warm and rewarding while others are frustrating and hurtful. And we all know it can be hard to be patient with elderly parents sometimes due to all the adjustments you both are making. 

At Beverly’s Daughter, we are here to partner with you through it all. Remember, everyone gets frustrated by their loved one sometimes. If those feelings of impatience or exhaustion get overwhelming, seeking out support and help is a great next step. We’re happy to take that next step with you.


Have any questions? Want to leave a comment? Looking for more resources? Continue the conversation below! 

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Patience in Difficult Times

Patience is something we all could use more of in life. And where you are a caregiver, patience can seem to run out even quicker. You are not alone in those feelings. However, support is available for your mind and soul as you generously give your care to your loved one. 

You and your loved one can both experience care

Your loved one can still be well cared for, even when you’re caring for yourself. There are resources, tips, and ideas on how to balance your boundaries while loving your aging adult well. At Beverly’s Daughter, we are here to help you create a plan for care and find creative solutions for you both. 

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