The global outbreak of coronavirus means that everything has changed in the past few months, and we’re all having to make adjustments day to day depending on the news. None of us want to feel like we’re out of control of our own lives, but we now know everyone will need to make sustained changes to the way we live our lives.

For elderly parents, the experience of learning from their children has been hard for them to take on board. They understand the concerns their children have; they try to follow advice but they still rail against the restrictions. Parents are used to being the teachers for their children, not the other way around. In your parents’ minds, you’ll always be their child and that makes it very hard for them to take instructions from you. Any time these roles are reversed, it raises tensions and emotions. With coronavirus, a major public health crisis, the tensions and emotions can become even more heated as adult children get frustrated with their loved ones.

We all know the dangers of the virus and have listened to the recommendations from health experts; vulnerable people should stay at home and limit close contact with others. Have you had disagreements with your older relatives about the way they have interpreted guidelines?

Do these scenarios sound familiar?

  • My mum is 82 years old and she’s told me in no uncertain terms that this virus isn’t going to stop her going out and living her life. I’m really worried about her because she doesn’t see herself as vulnerable but she is.
  • My 80 year old dad always goes to the shops every day to get a paper and something tasty for his tea. I worry because I know even routine trips to the shops increases the risk of him getting the infection.

Older people can consume the news in a different manner and may be slow to realise the extent of the pandemic and how it affects them directly. The urgency hasn’t hit them yet. The concept of social distancing and transmitting disease when asymptomatic are still not ‘truly’ understood or heeded by some people in our communities.

Your mum may be thinking ‘’I don’t want to lock myself away in my home because that would make me miserable, I’d rather live my life the way I want and face the consequences.” This may make them appear blasé about the disease, when actually they have thought through the risks of going out and decided to accept them. Many older people crave company to help alleviate their anxiety.

It is a fact that people of all ages can be infected by the virus, but it is especially dangerous for older people. Age is a risk factor because of the normal changes that happen to your immune system over time. The older you get, the less ability your body has to launch an immune response and the more health problems you tend to have, which further increase your risk.

So, what can you do?

Encourage your parents to explain the reasoning behind the risky decisions they are making. Ask them what are you hearing about this virus? What do you think your response should be? Have you ever experienced anything which compares to today’s situation? Older people may well have personal experience of polio epidemics, measles, scarlet fever etc and can use their experiences to apply to their situation now.

If you don’t feel your parent is listening to you, what can you say?

Maybe one of these statements will resonate with your loved one:

  • I love you and I’m worried about you; I just don’t want you to die
  • Anyone can catch the disease, and anyone can spread it
  • Are you willing to risk your life – and the lives of others – just to get your daily paper?
  • It is better to be safe than sorry. What does it hurt to take extra precautions for a few more weeks and then look at the situation again?
  • The coronavirus is like a slow-moving train and it is heading straight for our family. I don’t want you or any of us to get hit
  • This pandemic isn’t just affecting you. Have you thought about potentially burdening the already overstretched NHS?

Despite the urgency you might feel, it’s important to avoid pressurising or badgering family members into a certain course of action. This leaves most people feeling angry and misunderstood or inclined to more strongly defend their position, which are all counterproductive.

You may feel exasperated but the truth is that you can’t force your parents to do something if they don’t want to do it. If your family member won’t budge even after you’ve offered information and shared your concerns then you should respect their decision to avoid damaging relationships further and keep space open for future conversations.

Everyone is doing their best to protect themselves, their families and everyone around them. Together we WILL get through this crisis. If you’re really struggling and need advice, feel free to contact me tel 07923184316 or email me at sally@imworriedaboutmum.com

21/04/2020

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