Ep 63: (Q+A) How do you deal with parents who are really difficult?

podcast Aug 17, 2023
difficult aging parents

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How do you deal with aging parents or grandparents who are difficult, challenging, sometimes stubborn and resistant? Dealing with elderly family members who are difficult can leave you stressed and frustrated. Listen to today's episode to get three tips on how to care for "difficult" family members. 

Intro by: Carolyn Dalle-Molle, Co-founder of The Silver Post

Learn more about The Silver Post at https://www.hello.thesilverpost.com/grandparent-gift-pack and use the code "ISABEL"  to get $5 discount!



  • 3 things to remember when you have "difficult parents."
  • Not to think of them as a "difficult person."
  • It will take longer and more energy to care for someone who is more challenging. The video I have below will help (under Resources Mentioned).


Resources mentioned




Ep 63: How to Deal with Parents Who are Really Difficult?: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

Ep 63: How to Deal with Parents Who are Really Difficult?: this m4a audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Isabel Tom:
I want to answer the question. How do you deal with parents who are really difficult and challenging? I get this question a lot, and I think sometimes people think, oh, you know, you're talking about all the things that you're talking about are for people who have parents, aging parents or grandparents or older loved ones who are really easy to work with. But no, no, no, no, no. The question I get often or not even the question, but the comment is like, my mom is different. My dad is different. He is so stubborn or he is so hard to work with. So that's a question I'm going to address today. And the first thing I think about is something that I learned from a social worker. Her name was Lisa Frank that I worked with when I worked at Montgomery Hospice. And I'll actually try and find the podcast episode where I interviewed her about the question about dealing with difficult people. Because what Lisa told me was really is something I'll never forget. And she said that the first thing we need to do is stop calling them difficult. Why? Because when we label somebody as difficult, basically we're saying that they are hopeless. Like there is no way to work through this situation. They're just difficult and we're not giving them a chance. And so our in our minds, we're not even able to we're not giving room to be able to work through this situation.

Isabel Tom:
So the first thing is to not call them difficult, which I know is really hard because that's like the easiest way to talk about somebody who is really challenging to work with. But she had suggested saying they're challenging or what were the other adjectives? I can't really think of that right now, so don't call them difficult. Find another word to describe their behavior. The second thing to do, I think, is really to understand and where they're coming from. And I think because we as adult children or the family members or the close friends, we have to deal with their behavior and their resistance, often it's hard for us to even understand them. But think about weddings and weddings, I think are a perfect example of just having to love and deal with our family members, our difficult or challenging family members. Because as you get closer to the wedding, people start to panic more. And I think that is kind of a great way it's a great way to understand how our parents may often be feeling. They may be feeling more panicked in life in general because there is a deadline, There's like a wedding coming, an event, but they don't actually know when it's going to happen.

Isabel Tom:
So you think about a wedding as we get closer, as we have to get closer, two weeks away from the event, one week away from the then you start thinking about all the little details that haven't been done or maybe they've been done, but we're just not sure we want to double check them, right? So have we gotten does the dress need to be hemmed? Is it where is it? Are the family members going to Who's going to pick them up from the airport? Do we have the little favors ready? Like everything. You want it to be perfect, Right? But but in that process, as you're getting ready for this wedding, people kind of freak out and panic. And so I think understanding that that is often how an older person may feel and sometimes why they may have challenging behavior, why they may have a lot of resistance, why they may act out is because they're they're stressed and they're thinking about a deadline. So there are a lot of other things, I think that if we can just understand and take some time to reflect on the older person that we're caring for, that that will help us to care for them. Okay. The third thing that I think is important to do when you are dealing with somebody who you find really hard to work with or hard to care for is to know yourself and to be able to be very aware.

Isabel Tom:
This requires a lot of reflection, self awareness and slowing down is to be recognized when you yourself are starting to get annoyed, irritable, irritated with that person, where you think that you might say something or do something that may be harmful to the relationship. So when you are able to recognize when you're losing patience, have a plan for yourself. Put together a plan. Because the thing about caring for somebody as they age is, number one, that relationship is key, like if you do something. Thing to harm that relationship. It's going to be very hard to win their trust back. Trust takes time to rebuild, and often you don't have a lot of time when it comes to somebody who's aging. You really don't know how much time you have, right? So having a plan so that you can minimize and prevent as many times where you kind of blow up or use unkind words. Yes, they're being difficult. But the problem is we can't control our challenging, you know, loved ones. And they're going through a lot. We may not understand. They may not tell us. But just having a plan, that is what self care is about. It's about, number one, being able to set boundaries to protect yourself.

Isabel Tom:
Okay, So that may be something I talk about in another video, but when you're able to recognize when you're about to lose it, then having that plan to care for yourself and find ways to remove yourself from the situation or do things that help you cool down to help you. You know, this may be when you're visiting them, things that you can do so that things don't get worse. All right. So just to sum up, if you're dealing and caring for somebody who you find is pretty hard to work with, then number one, remember, try to find another word to use to describe their behavior. Don't label them as difficult and hopeless. Okay. You want to be able to find a solution to this and work through it. Number two, really try and understand them, understand why they're feeling, why their behavior is the way that it is, understand their life and what they've gone through before. That really helps. The number three, recognize when you are losing patience, recognize when you need a break and have a plan for yourself on what you can do so that you don't harm that relationship any more than you need to. It doesn't mean you have to be best friends with your older loved one, but just having a plan helps.

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