Why Rational, Agreeable Aging Parents Can Turn Grumpy:
My dad was extraordinarily independent. I knew that; but I didn’t know how much he valued his independence until a respite weekend–just three nights and two days– at “the home” was suggested.
My brother (who lived with our father) wanted to go to the beach for the weekend. There was help during the days to cook lunch and dinner and clean up; my brother was there at night and it worked fine.
Dad, a relatively healthy 90-something-year-old at the time, every week visited old friends at “the home” who lived in independent or assisted living. So you can imagine my brother’s surprise when Dad vehemently rejected the idea, with a never-before-seen emotional outbreak that stunned my brother.
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R is still living at the rehab center, as you know. No option initially. She needed to recover and move forward after surgery on her broken hip. This is her 47th day there; 97-year-old bones don’t recover as fast as younger bones and she accepts this fact.
Looking back over R’s adjustment, I believe I understand my Dad’s emotional refusal and my mother-in-law’s initial feelings. Thus I want to share insights that are no doubt common for aging parents who value their independence and probably for most older people in general.
- Older people take pride in being independent. It sets them above the stereotype. It raises self-esteem and confirms capability.
- Older people don’t welcome change; they’re usually more comfortable and confident in known surroundings.
- When they must go to an institutional structure (unfamiliar routines and rules) they must adapt, which isn’t always easy.
- Think: putting your child in kindergarten the first day. New people, new expectations, and to be successful adapting to the regimen and beginning to make new friends.
Loss of control is scary. Normally pleasant people can become grumpy and demanding, if not depressed. Needing to navigate new turf with new ground rules can prove daunting, especially when older people feel helpless and are dependent. As they gain and feel more control (know the nurses, adapt to the routine, understand that it isn’t going to be like home) things do improve. Needless to say, optimistic support from adult children at these times is invaluable.
https://helpparentsagewell.com/2010/04/16/aging-parents-hurtful-puzzling-unwarrented-criticism/ also highlights aging parents’ feelings of control/loss of control and their impact on caring children.