Your parents birthed and raised you and maybe even supported you throughout your adult life. Now, as they enter their later years, you may find yourself in the position of having to take care of them or having to cater to their needs and desires. You welcome this responsibility, but they are increasingly self-centered. Refrain from trying to change their behavior, as they may be too set in their ways. Instead, find ways to deal with your elderly parents.
State how your parents' behavior make you feel and how you feel their actions are detrimental to themselves or other family members. Avoid confrontational language and terms like, "You are being self-centered and it annoys me." Rather, focus on your feelings and use positive language like, "I care about your well-being and only want the best for you."
Don't be overprotective. Allow them to do what they want, within reason, for as long as they are able. Avoid conflict, pain and frustration by letting them make their own decisions until they simply are not capable of doing so.
Reach a compromise. If your father is upset that you do not pay him enough attention, you will need to reach a compromise that works for both him and you. If he is angry that you do not visit often enough, for example, tell him that you will spend at least one day a week with him. Balance his needs and your schedule.
Steer clear of arguments. Self-centered parents may try to bait you into arguments or impart feelings of guilt. If your mother says, for example, "I don't know why you stay at that job. You're never going to get anywhere," she may be trying exert control, as when you were younger. Diffuse the situation, saying something like, "I know you're worried about me and I appreciate the concern, but I can make my own decisions now."
Solicit help from your siblings, if you have any. Tell them that you'd appreciate more support by having them take your parents out more often, or simply calling and checking on them frequently. Be direct when asking for support and be clear that the responsibility should not rest squarely on your shoulders.
If you lack siblings, consider hiring caretakers to help you to deal with the increasing demands of caring for your aging parents.
Make an appointment with your family doctor, as behavioral changes may be a sign of dementia or other medical conditions. Paying attention to any warning signs may help your parents, as well as prepare you for upcoming challenges.
Find an outlet for your parents to redirect their energy. Your parents' behavior may change if they have a hobby that they enjoy. Getting out more--for instance to an exercise or art class--may help reduce their self-centeredness.
- Oprah: Caring for Your Parents: How to Reclaim the Good Old Times; Martha Beck; May 2009
- Aging Care: Both of my parents have dementia. How can I handle their outbursts?; Carolyn Rosenblatt
- Aging Care: How do I Deal with a Parent who Always Has to be Right?; Dr. Robert Bornstein, PhD
- Boomers: Dealing with a Parents Anger
- Psychology Today: The Challenge of Dealing With People Who Treat Life as One Long Self-Centered Emergency; Robert Sutton; July 2010
Christina Whitaker began her writing career in 2005 in newspaper journalism. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from UCLA and a law degree. Her legal experience includes work in Federal Court, and civil and criminal litigation. She also maintains a blog on social, pop-culture and cultural matters.