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Easing Your Elderly Parent’s Fears

Looking through the window

Do you remember what it was like to calm your children’s fears, whether it was the boogie man or the fear of going to a new school? You were there to listen to what was troubling them and to help lighten the impact of those fears. Now that you’re POParenting, you’re likely to find yourself in similar situations with your aging parents.

What might our older parents be fearful about? Their growing sense of loss of independence, their declining health and strength, not being able to live at home, having strangers caring for them in their home, the imminent death of a spouse, other family member, best friend — or all of them. Many of these fears are pretty real, so you may you wonder: what is the equivalent of the boogie man in your aging parents’ minds? Moreover, what can you, the caring and concerned POParent, do to undermine your parents’ fears, especially when those concerns reflect real life problems?

1. Listen: This is very under-rated. Often our parents need to talk, maybe over and again they will say the same things. Learning to “just be” there is enormously valuable since listening to your parents’ fears can be very calming, healing and helpful. You don’t need to know “the right thing” to say when you ask, listen and empathize. You just need to have the patience to listen and be kind.

2. Get to the “reason” behind the fear: By inquiring gently, you may be able to help your aging parents discover what and why they’re having the fears that have come up. By doing so, you may be more successful in bringing them back from the fearful future they’re imagining into the present, where some sort of action can be taken or reassurances offered.

3. Reassure: Know this: you will not be able to fix all their concerns. As far as we know, we’re all mortal. Nor do you want to lose your own “credibility” by falsely claiming everything will turn out for the best. They may not agree. Instead, point out how worrying has caused them sleep loss and unnecessary stress and that your approach, POPlanning for contingencies, is far superior to worrying about them. Once our families know we have a plan and that we are there for them and that they will be heard — because you listen to them — many of their fears will be lightened considerably.

4. Accept: Some situations will arise where your reassurance may not be possible. Do more listening. Then show your parents how best to accept the things we can’t change, change the things we can and know the difference. This understanding and your attention will help make your parents’ fears less overwhelming and less disturbing to both of you.

What fears are your aging parents dealing with? Have you tried these steps? How have YOU lightened your parents’ fears? Let us know by commenting below.

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