Mind Your Manners: 8 Things Better Left Unsaid

Mar 22, 2016

Mind Your Manners: 8 Things Better Left Unsaid

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Parents are notorious for lending their two cents when it comes to guiding their children through life. They may even voice some inspirational quotes from time to time after sharing a life experience, but as they age and become increasingly forgetful, these stories and one-liners may become repetitive, and as a result, we may say some not so nice things in rebuttal.

If each visit to mom or dad’s begins with the same story about that one time they rescued a dog caught in the rapids, it could become hard to appear as interested as the first time, and our words and mannerisms could cut deep, even if our parents maintain their poker face.

Seniors begin to lose cognitive and physical abilities as they age, but snarky rebuttals about their forgetfulness can be extremely hurtful and a saddening reminder that their mind isn’t quite as sharp as it used to be. There are a few things that are common and heard more than others, so here are a few phrases to avoid and ways to combat them.

8 Things NOT to Say to Aging Parents

  1. “Why don’t you remember this?” This question alone is a gleaming reminder to those who suffer from short-term memory loss that they indeed have a short-term memory. It is the equivalent of asking someone in a cast why they broke their arm, which clearly wasn’t by choice.
  2. “I just showed you how to organize your emails.” Even if it’s just a tone of voice, showing annoyance when an aging parent cannot keep up with the latest technology can be hurtful and discouraging. Like most things, when we’re learning, we often need to practice skills before they are perfected, regardless of age.
  3. “What does that have to do with anything?” Minds of the aging often go astray, jumping from thought to thought, or being unable to follow a conversation. It explains why conversations can begin with watering the indoor plants and then easily transition to that one time cousin Brian got food poisoning on a cruise ship.
  4. “You already told me that.” While this statement may seem harmless, it’s better to play along and make the best of the scenario instead of becoming irritable. After all, if a parent says something more than once, it is a thought that is important to them.
  5. “Are the custom end tables in your will?” Our aging parents don’t want to think about death. Value time spent together over material things because time spent together is the most cherished of all possessions.
  6. “Um… Your grandson’s name is Matthew, not Jim.” Even though it can be hurtful to a child when grandma calls them the wrong name, rest assured there is no ill will in the confusion. It’s better to make the best of the situation and laugh off the mistake then to respond in a negative tone.
  7. “Don’t even try, I’ll take care of this.” While this phrase is intended to be helpful and put our parents at ease, it’s actually incredibly hurtful because it imposes the thought that you don’t believe a parent is capable of doing routine tasks or trying new things.
  8. “Do you realize how hard this is for me?” While it is wonderful to have a parent that can be confided in with complete honesty, this phrase can pass guilt onto an aging parent during a time they don’t need to be put on a guilt trip. It is better to confide frustrations in a friend, counselor, or another trusted person.

Growing old is inevitable, but it is important that as we watch our loved one's age, we are accepting, loving, and nurturing. Just like our parents once were to us. Remember that manners matter, and patience is key.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I create boundaries with my parent without seeming overbearing?

It’s important to preserve your family unit while not treating your parent like a guest in your home. If you don’t eat dinner every night at the dinner table, tell them. If you don’t allow smoking in the house, tell them. Explain some of the boundaries and house rules and they’ll most likely understand that it’s a group effort and should hopefully work with you to reach agreeable terms. On the same note, it's important that everyone be able to live together in harmony and have their opinions respected. Holding weekly house meetings can be a great chance to bond and respond to any plans or issues experienced. 

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It's time for my parents to move into assisted living but my sister disagrees. She's in denial and thinks they are fine. What is the best way to explain her that it's time?

Create a list of all of the reasons that you think it’s time for your parents to move into an assisted living community and explain them to your sister. Then, find out why she doesn’t want to them move into an assisted living community. Is she worried about money? Does she want them to live with her? Once you have a better understanding of her reservations, you can work together to find the best solution for your parents.

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