Open Accessibility Menu

Setting Boundaries With Difficult Elderly Parents

Personal boundaries are guidelines or limits we set for ourselves to identify reasonable and permissible ways for others to behave toward us.

Setting boundaries with difficult elderly parents can be challenging, especially if boundaries have not been respected in the past.

How can we insist that parents respect and adhere to the boundaries we set? Establishing the ground rules for peaceful and respectful visits may have to begin by using tough love with elderly parents.

Some adult children simply choose to avoid toxic elderly parents. That’s easy to do when everyone is healthy, and excuses such as demanding jobs, growing families, and busy schedules give them an excuse to stay away.

That is not always possible as parents get older. The day may come when you get the call you’ve been dreading from your verbally abusive elderly mother. She has fallen, broken her hip, and needs you to come home to help her and decide what to do.

She is already setting the stage for your visit by insisting you owe it to her to take care of her because, after all, she is your mother.

Before you make the trip, let’s consider some things you can do to break the old patterns.

Download a Free Guide to Dealing with Elderly Anger

These tips can help anyone dealing with a similar scenario with elderly parents who have no idea what boundaries are or think they don’t apply to them.

  1. Have a plan before you attempt to visit. Think about what needs to be accomplished and make that your focus.

  2. Set ground rules and stick to them.

  3. Use a non-threatening approach when trying to have a sincere and meaningful conversation. Try to remain calm and don’t let old habits or hurts overwhelm you.

  4. Try to understand the reason your parent is hostile or abusive. Sometimes a kind word of understanding or a request to sit down and talk about a lifetime of unhappiness can be a relief to both you and your parent.

  5. Remember, you are an adult. Sometimes it is difficult to break away from the old patterns. Remind your parent that you are there to help them if they need you, but you will not tolerate or accept disrespect or abuse. If they refuse to be accommodating, you have the option to leave.

  6. Be respectful and give your parents the same courtesy you are asking them to provide you with. Admitting they need help or being fearful of what lies ahead is frightening. Make allowances for those feelings and try to let your parent have as much control as possible when making decisions about their future.

  7. Be mindful of physical and mental health problems that may be a catalyst to erratic or abhorrent behaviors. A visit to the doctor may be necessary to assess your parent’s medical condition.

  8. Identify triggers for your parent’s behavior. Do they feel out of control? Do they feel guilty about the past? Are they frustrated because they are losing their independence? Are they showing signs of dementia?

  9. Be aware of a failure to communicate. If you’ve made every attempt to assist and support your parent and nothing works, it may be time to look for outside resources to help your parent. Clickhere for information about Griswold Home Care services.

  10. Don’t beat yourself up. You may not be able to fix the relationship with your difficult elderly parent. Personal boundaries are important to your own mental health and well-being. If your parent cannot or will not accept your advice and support, seeking outside help may be your only option.