Honoring your aging parent: Three things Adult Children need to stop saying

October 10, 2022

There are some things in life you simply can’t be fully prepared for. Supporting your parent through the ups and downs of aging is certainly one of those things. The territory is equally unknown to the elder as well. It is likely that they are dealing with new emotions, losses and in some cases, mounting fear about the future. This can make any conversation feel like you are navigating a minefield of sensitive feelings with the risk of crossing an invisible boundary line while only trying to help. While this is not an exhaustive list, here are the top three things adult children should stop saying to their aging parent.  


1.      “I know.”

If your parent has enough courage to be vulnerable with you about what they are experiencing in the aging process, avoid replying with, “I know.” While your intentions are to demonstrate empathy, you are only assuring them that they remain misunderstood. Or, for example, if they are sharing their recent gaps in memory and you launch into what you think are relatable stories or information you read online, you are missing the point. They are coming to you with fear in their heart. Therefore, responding with, “I know how you feel,” is a ridiculous notion. You simply cannot know what they are experiencing. Instead, try saying things like, “Thank you for sharing that with me, how can I best support you right now?”


2.      “I’ll takeover…(fill in the blank).”

When managing various appointments, housework, bill pay or other daily tasks become overwhelming, we swoop in like self-proclaimed superheroes telling mom, “Don’t worry, I’m taking over your bills!” Then, we expect her to smother us with gratitude. Instead, little hints of bitterness begin to show. It may be a passive aggressive statement here or there when mom is asked a question and she replies, “Don’t ask me, I’m not the one in charge.”  Or, it may look like clutching every other remaining sign of independence with all of her might, even if it means hiding details from you about how effectively she is handling those things. The bottom line is, she has been a self-sustaining adult for decades upon decades, no one wants any part of their life taken over by someone else. Instead, trying saying, “Can I partner with you to get the bills paid?” Or, “Let’s work together on…(fill in the blank).”


3.      “I know someone who is older than you and they still…(fill in the blank)."

Sure, we have all heard about the 100-year-old that walks three miles per day or the 98-year-old who is still working as a volunteer at the local library. So, when dad is struggling with mobility at 78-years-old, we feel the need to remind him about others who are much older who can do more. We hope this may serve as a source of motivation that may change his condition or mindset. This simply isn’t helpful. Aging has no formula that can determine what a person should be doing at a certain stage.  Instead, focus less on what they can’t do, and more on what they can do. Provide encouragement for every little sign of progress and support for every new sign of decline. Keep all the focus on their quality of life, despite what they may be facing.

Written by Jill Janes, MRC VP of Sales and Marketing

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