Aging Parents: Making the Effort–Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way….continued

What if aging parents don’t have the will to make the effort?

Dr. Bud doesn’t feel comfortable with “don’t have the will.” Instead, he says,

“It’s a style of encountering challenges. Some people are more can-do oriented and respond to change and challenges with determination. Others have difficulty.

“The latter may respond with feelings of overwhelming damage–making the damage seem even worse than it is; or they may be struggling with challenges or already coping to maintain equilibrium–to maintain balance.

“They may respond with pessimism–“even if I do, I won’t (or it won’t) get better.” Lacking other good things going on in their lives, trauma becomes another negative event. These negatives accumulate, can overwhelm. And they give up.

“For others–the doers–they think “challenge to overcome.” Therefore, they try new ways to cope (for example, with loss of a spouse, a medical situation etc.).

“Some search for an optimistic view when called upon to cope with frustration and disappointment. Indeed learning to cope (coping skills) starts early. At this time of year we can think about high school seniors getting–and having to handle–rejection letters from college admissions offices.

 “As for adult children, not much can be done initially to help aging parents who have difficulty coping with challenges. But they can at least understand elders’ setbacks (physical or emotional), with a greater sensitivity to their sense of loss, of damage, of hopelessness. They can emphasize with them, legitimizing their problem. And they can realize that many older people are struggling to activate their coping mechanism rather than letting the event overpower and cripple them.

Bottom line: Some people have better coping mechanisms. And some who don’t, need support–not criticism.”

PS. Even for elders who have always been giver-uppers, introducing hope can’t hurt. Dr. Bud and I want to add that as we try to help parents age well.

2 thoughts on “Aging Parents: Making the Effort–Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way….continued

  1. I SO agree with the last paragraph about adult children being sensitive to their elders’ struggles and, by implication, honoring their decisions. I don’t think any younger person knows how s/he will react to major challenges in old age. It may not be a matter of giving up so much as a weighing of the alternatives, including quality of life. It may be that the elder is all too aware that losses will continue to be cumulative and the situation is not likely to improve (especially with end-stage medical conditions). In that situation the elder, if mentally competent, must be allowed to engage in the struggle and keep on trying to cope–OR not.

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