What to Do After You’ve Lost Your Cool with your Aging Parents
We’re all human. We’ve probably all felt the guilt and remorse after losing our cool with our aging parents, relatives or care recipients.
Aside from feeling badly, what can we actively do to make amends after we’ve blown up at them? How do we begin to repair the relationship after a hurtful incident?
Making up may be hard, but not impossible, to do. Here are several steps to take:
1. Have a cooling off period. Let the dust settle before you engage them again. It gives everyone involved time to gain some perspective on what the issues were that set off a disagreement. This could mean several hours, days or even weeks depending upon your caregiving situation.
2. Change your mode of contact. If you visit regularly, you may want to simply touch base via phone a few times before another face-to-face visit. Or ask a sibling, spouse or adult child to take a turn or two with the caregiving duties. If you live with your care recipient, get away from home for a little while, provided they are safe to be alone for this period of time.
3. Before you visit your Golden Oldies again, resolve to arrive with a pleasant attitude and open mind about talking over the issues that caused the argument. Otherwise, it’s not time to visit them yet. You may also want to role play with a friend or colleague the scenario before you go there, to figure out how to calmly discuss the issue(s) with them. It’s best not to involve another family member in your role playing, as they may have their own emotional bias on the topic.
What If You Start Losing Your Cool All Over Again?
When you re-establish contact and visit with the intention of making amends, be tuned in and aware of your own internal signals. Are your Golden Oldies beginning to push your buttons? Do you feel your stress level rising again? If so, before the same argument starts over, it would be better to either leave or change the subject, rather than have it lead to another blow up! Try to remain cool, calm and collected as the issues are being discussed.
At the very first sign things aren’t going well however, either change the subject (“I think we all need to think about these ideas more. Can we continue this discussion another day?”) or leave gracefully (“I have to pick up XYZ before dinner — can we continue this tomorrow?”).
Then repeat the steps given above, until you can control your reactions more effectively.
I also suggest that if you sense your aging parents are becoming upset again, it may be wise for you to bail. You don’t have control over their emotional reactions, but you do not have to be subjected to any verbal abuse they may throw at you. If the same issues are starting to upset them, just stop and let it go for the time being.
As I left my parents’ home after a visit, I would often ask myself, if this was our final goodbye, would I be happy with it? I think parent-adult child relationships would be vastly improved if more family members asked this question of themselves.
Special Circumstances Apply
If your Golden Oldie has any type of memory loss, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease you must always be the one to apologize. This is due to the fact that they most likely
- won’t remember the blow up; and
- even if they do, they may not have the brain processing function to take the initiative to apologize
You must accept the blame when something’s wrong, even if it is a fantasy existing only in their minds. It is the kindest thing to do under the circumstances.
What techniques have you used to make amends after a blow up with your Golden Oldies or care recipients? Please leave your words of wisdom in the comments section below.