Fixing relationships with aging parents

| Caregiver Support

Two upset women sitting on the sofa. One of them looks disappointed.

Fixing relationships with aging parents

Being a family caregiver for senior-aged parents is a challenging role, one that’s often physically and emotionally demanding. If you have a difficult relationship with your parents, that added dimension can make things even more stressful and complicated.

Here are some ways to care for your parents as they age, and manage a difficult relationship.

Get family counselling

It’s not easy for children to watch a parent’s health decline, or for seniors to lose their independence. Both generations often feel unprepared for how the aging process alters their parent-child relationship. The person who was once the caregiver – but was neglectful or abusive – now needs care.

When you were young, you may have had a difficult relationship with your parents that left some wounds. A parent’s aging and deterioration can again open up those wounds and lead to new wounds.

You may feel stuck between balancing feelings of obligation to your parents, your need to maintain your own health, and the need to meet newer challenges.

Family counselling can help. Professional therapists understand these conflicting emotions, and can help you find the balance that works for you and your parents.

If you can’t get your parents to go with you, consider therapy just for yourself. One-on-one counselling can allow you to gain insight into a loved one’s behaviours and learn techniques for coping.

Therapists can offer you:

  • A safe space to vent.
  • Advice on how to work through family or relationship conflicts.
  • Support with big transitions, such as moving or changes in health status.
  • An opportunity to improve your overall mental wellness and self esteem.

Set boundaries

No matter the reason for a loved one’s demanding nature, setting your own boundaries is essential. This involves differentiating between negativity that may be understandable because of stressful situations, and behaviour that is unreasonable and unhealthy for everyone involved. Setting boundaries is hard, but consistency is important.

Deciding what you will and will not tolerate will help you maintain your mental and physical well-being. It may also compel your loved one to cooperate with you and the other people who are involved in their care.

However, dementia can complicate boundary setting. It’s important to remember that if your parents are in the moderate or severe stages of the disease, they may have trouble regulating their moods and behaviors and remembering what lines have been drawn.

If your parents are experiencing cognitive decline, be realistic about your expectations of your loved ones and your own personal limits.

Arrange respite care

Respite care provides temporary relief for a primary caregiver, allowing you to take a much-needed break from the demands of caregiving.

Respite could take the form of enlisting friends and family to watch your loved one so you can visit others, go to the gym, or handle chores, for example. Respite care can also mean finding volunteers or paid carers to provide in-home services for your loved one, either occasionally or regularly. Respite care can even mean using out-of-home programs, such as adult daycare centres, to provide you with a break and your loved one with the continued care that they need.

Respite care providers offer services that help lighten the load on family caregivers, such as companionship, housekeeping, personal care and nursing.

Even when the relationship is hard, it’s natural to love your parents and want to ensure proper care for them as they age. We understand that caring for older loved ones can be a lot of work and you may need support.


Bayshore Home Health offers a wide range of home care services to help Canadians live independently for as long as possible. Contact us at 1-877-289-3997 for details.