Elderly parents can be extremely challenging and tough to deal with, especially if they happen to have a bad temper, be stubborn or fight a lot amongst themselves. It can be overwhelming at times, trying to manage their constant bickering and tantrums.
However, there are a few things that you can do to try and diffuse the situation. In this article, we will explore some of the ways that you can try to tackle such a problem and offer some tips on how to deal with a similar situation. We hope that this will give you some insight and help you to better manage it all.
Ways to deal with elderly parents fighting a lot:
1. Address everything calmly:
Take into account that when your parents are fighting, they don’t necessarily want to hear what’s right and what’s wrong. They are angry at each other about something silly but they are probably more upset about each other’s attitude and stubbornness.
So the topic of disagreement isn’t so important in this case, what matters is that they are both sure they are right and equally sure that the other is wrong. Because of this behavior, it will be useless to try to reason with them or act as a mediator.
Instead, you will have to force them to take a break from the argument and go to separate rooms so that the tension can gradually decrease. It can be triggering to still be at each other’s faces when they’re so done and angry with one another so give them some timeout separately.
After you take control of the situation in this way, it will be time to make them take a deep breath and relax. Try to take their mind off the argument for a few minutes as it can speed up the relaxing process. After you made sure that both your parents caught their breath, bring them back together and initiate a calm conversation. Tell them that there is no rush and you will be able to talk about everything and find a suitable solution.
2. Finding the reason for their conflict can help:
As much as you have grown used to your parents being in control of their lives and completely independent, old age can make them act silly and childish now. And you will have to become more aware of that. If you don’t live with your parents anymore and every time you see them they are fighting, consider checking how they’re handling their daily routine and house chores.
Maybe, one of your parents is taking up more things to do at home because the other one isn’t as physically capable anymore. If that’s the case, this may be the reason why they aren’t handling the situation well. In this case, this will only make them feel more stressed and angrier which in turn will make them take their frustration out on each other. If this is happening to your parents you should start considering getting someone to help them from time to time.
However, it’s advisable to talk with your parents about this. If their topic of argument is always the same or all their fights stem from the same matter then it is time to find a permanent solution for it.
So let’s say their main problem is indeed having to do it all by themselves in their old age. In this case, you have to get them help but make sure to do it their way. Even though they aren’t as capable as they used to be, they still won’t like being left in the dark and not being in control of changes in their home.
So you’ll have to convince them to get help, but also let them figure out what would the best arrangements be for them and how they want it arranged. This way, they can still be in control and experience a sense of normality in their lives.
3. Take them to do new soothing activities:
One thing that is probably causing conflict between your parents is that they don’t engage in leisure activities anymore together as a couple. Given the fact that your parents are old and probably retired, they must have a lot of free time and are probably not using it well.
Perhaps they are spending too much time at home with not many things to do or at least things to enjoy one another’s company. This kind of routine can gradually make them feel irritated with themselves and with each other, increasing their stress levels and causing conflict.
So what you could do is try explaining to them that it would make them feel good to find activities to fill their free time and strengthen their bond. At first, it would be more effective to help them find new things to do in person and go with them too.
Once they get in the habit of looking for different things to do and starting to enjoy different aspects of life they will start to tolerate one another more. They could start going together for picnics during the weekends or long walks by the beach or in a park. The more they’ll go the more they will start talking to one another about different topics, planning things together and eventually strenghtening their bond as a couple.
It would help if the new hobbies your parents go for not only stimulated their bodies and/or minds, but also reduced their stress levels. They will have fun stories to share, creating good memories together rather than always to arguing.
4. Define boundaries:
If even after trying everything above you don’t notice any change in your parents’ relationship, the only thing left to do is define boundaries for when you interact with them. Tell them that even though you understand that the reason for their fighting is a long-standing conflict, you still wish to be able to spend time with your parents in a healthy way.
If you do this they will see that their conflicts are starting to become problematic and serious and they will be willing to put in more work to improve their relationship. Tell them that you have nothing to do with their conflict, and you only wish to maintain a good relationship with them but that their arguing is starting to affect their other relationships now.
They might understand your point of view but it is hard to make a change, so you could suggest some boundaries or ask them to consider going for therapy as a couple. You can also ask them to postpone their arguments when they are alone at home rather than have you waste your precious time with them playing the judge.
Also, it will help immensely if you make plans to go out in public whenever you meet. This way, they won’t make a scene and you will be able to enjoy your time together. You should also warn them that you won’t take sides, so if they start fighting, you will remove yourself from the situation and let them sort it out their way. At the end of the day, you can also suggest that they try to reconnect as life partners and a couple now that they live alone rather than be each other enemies and have a horrible life together.