It’s easy to assume that as our parents age, they are going to remain basically the same person. Sure, they may face additional physical challenges and they may even be stubborn from time-to-time, but that should be the extent of it, right?
That assumption means that many caregivers are shocked at the level of manipulative behavior in the elderly.
Yet, it’s critical to understand why this happens and how to respond to it – rather than just ignoring the patter. Otherwise, you may find that the situation simply gets worse over time.
Why Elderly Parents Manipulate
There are many potential reasons for why some seniors are manipulative. In some cases, it may be an effort to gain back control over a situation where they have lost it. Likewise, some parents are controlling by nature (especially if they are narcissistic)and this can become amplified in old age.
Parents can also end up feeling resentful, especially if they feel like you are taking power away from them. In some cases, these emotions can result in manipulation.
But, in many other cases, the manipulation isn’t even intentional.
Instead, many dementia-related behaviors often look and feel like manipulation. For example, the memory loss that comes with dementia often means that seniors cannot remember key things. As a result, they will often go back on promises that they have made or contradict themselves often.
Regardless of the reason, manipulation is a tough problem to resolve.
Often you won’t be able to talk your family member out of the practice, especially if they’re not even aware that they are doing it.
So, what can you do? Well, one key approach is to figure out the underlying cause. For example, the manipulative behavior could be an indication that the seniors is in the early stages of dementia.
But, one other approach is to set boundaries and work out how you are going to respond. This is particularly relevant in cases where the manipulative behavior is somewhat intentional.
Setting Boundaries For Elderly Parents
Setting boundaries basically means that you’re working out what you will and won’t tolerate – along with the way that you will respond to specific situations.
For example, one area is financial. Many people wonder whether they should bail out their aging parents, especially when that parent is struggling financially.
There are many reasons why you would want to do this, especially as seniors often don’t have enough income to meet all of their needs. Yet, when a parent is manipulative, this area can take on a whole new dimension.
For one thing, some seniors will spend far beyond their means, often assuming that family members will help out. Some seniors may even feel that they can simply move in with their children if they can no longer afford to live on their own.
Likewise, some manipulative elderly parents may want their children to help with every little thing, even if the senior could easily do it themselves. If the child doesn’t, then emotional manipulation often comes into play.
These patterns make it critical for you to take a step back and figure out how to respond. For example, having to run errands for an elderly parent every day probably isn’t practical, especially if they don’t really need that. Likewise, even if your parent is living with you, taking care of your own needs is still critical.
There is no single or simple answer about where to set boundaries.
But, one key area to consider is what your parent actually needs versus what they want.
Another area is to look at family history. For example, if your parent was always manipulative, then you may need to draw harsher lines and be stricter in your responses.
In contrast, if the behavior is new, it may be related to a medical condition or the situation. If this is the case, you may be able to resolve some issues by providing them with more control or by working to understand the underlying causes.
The site Aging Care offers some good additional information about how to respond to manipulative behavior and how to figure out where to draw boundaries.
More than anything, it’s important to realize that elderly parents can be manipulative and sometimes that behavior is intentional. That manipulation can easily turn into abuse and can create a challenging situation for caregivers.
In some cases, the best answer may even be to look into assisted living.