Overprotective Children: Can it Be Affecting Wellness for Senior Parents?

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Sometimes, the best way to improve wellness for seniors is by stepping back.

We’ve all heard of helicopter parents, particularly when a child goes off to college. In fact, we may be guilty of hovering a bit too closely ourselves. Finding that perfect balance between caring and overstepping our boundaries isn’t easy.

And now, with the influx of sandwich generationers providing care for both children and aging parents, we’re at risk of earning another badge of overbearingness: that of a helicopter child. It’s common for adult children to find themselves slipping into a role reversal with their senior parents, with the best of intentions, of course; naturally, we want to keep our loved ones safe. However, this can negatively impact wellness for seniors, resulting in seniors feeling indignant, offended, or simply frustrated at their newfound loss of control.

If you think you might be infringing upon your senior parent’s rights and sense of self-worth and control, here’s how to come in for a landing, and resolve to step in only when absolutely necessary.

Talk about expectations. Engage the senior in a dialogue about aging goals, and how she would like you to assist in achieving those goals. For instance, if the senior were to develop dementia, would the preference be to move into an assisted living facility, or remain at home with help? If the senior were to fall, requiring surgery or rehabilitation, how would she envision her recovery experience? Would she be more comfortable receiving help with personal care tasks, such as bathing and using the toilet, from you or from a professional caregiver?

Speak up when necessary. When safety is compromised, it’s crucial to step in and ensure wellness for seniors, maintaining a respectful, collaborative mindset. The goal is to ensure the senior maintains as much self-sufficiency as possible. If she’s reluctant to accept assistance or to make wise decisions, such as using a walker when needed to avoid a fall, it can be helpful to engage the assistance of her physician or a geriatric care manager to offer recommendations.

Otherwise, step back. If you find yourself trying to control issues that are not impacting the senior’s health or safety, and she is cognitively still capable of making her own decisions, it’s best to let those concerns go. “A child should be sensitive to a parent’s need for self-determination and maintaining self-identity,” shares Barry Jacobs, clinical psychologist and author of The Emotional Survival Guide for Caregivers: Looking After Yourself and Your Family While Helping Aging Parents.

Contact JFS Care to learn more about our respite care in Los Angeles and surrounding areas, at (213) 383-2273 for professional senior care assistance that is always geared towards ensuring as much independence as possible for older adults, allowing family caregivers time to step back and allow their parents the freedom they need, all while maximizing wellness for seniors. Click here to view our full senior care service area.