How to Avoid Hovering & Smothering Your Aging Parents

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Helicopter Parenting is a buzzword that has been gaining more attention recently. Studies have shown that this method of constantly hovering can have developmental impacts on children, and it often leads to children becoming frustrated and lashing out. So what does it mean to be a Helicopter Child, and how can you avoid hovering and smothering your aging parents?

What does it mean to be a helicopter child?

Just like when parenting, adult children can sometimes have the helicopter tendency to constantly hover around their aging senior parents. While they have the best intentions, this method of controlling and hovering can often cause more problems than it solves. Caring for a senior loved one is similar to caring for a growing child in many ways. There is a fine line between being an appropriately concerned caregiver, and one that is overly worried, controlling, and smothering. The best rule of thumb is if your senior parent can still function on their own, you shouldn’t limit them or nag them to try to slow them down.

It is easy for humans to start feeling paternal or maternal when they take on responsibility for someone else’s care, even if the individual they are caring for is their own parent. Often, adult children can unknowingly start treating their parents like children, telling them “Don’t do that” or “You have to do this.” Most senior parents don’t handle the concept of their children taking on a parental tone with them very well, especially when it comes to making decisions about their independence.

How can you provide support without becoming a helicopter child?

When your parents start to age, it is natural and important to step in to be a bigger part of their life, offering help when necessary. However, you should be wary about imposing your will forcefully, unless it is clear that your aging parent is losing his or her physical or mental functions completely, or is in real danger of hurting themselves.

For example, if your mother doesn't want to wear her hearing aid because it bothers her, and she feels like she can hear well enough without it, don’t constantly push and pester her to put it in. However, if the situation could be dangerous - i.e. your father is starting to have serious issues going up and down steps, and you are seriously concerned about their safety because of a fall -  then it's time to take action and gently enforce a responsible decision.

Adult children of aging parents should always ask themselves if they are intervening to legitimately improve or maintain their parent's well-being, or if they are doing it for themselves, to alleviate their own worries. You might feel much more comfortable about the safety of your aging parent if they are under 24-hour observation, but is it truly required? Remember that independence is incredibly important to aging with dignity and happiness. So, while you should absolutely feel comfortable being more involved in your parent’s care and well-being, you shouldn’t smother them or remove unnecessary independence. If mom or dad can still garden, drive, and get themselves out of bed in the morning then they really shouldn’t be limited, and chances are they would resent you trying.

The In-Home Care Decision

A certified care provider can help seniors maintain their independence and safely do the things they love, while offering support and reassurance to their families. If you or a loved one believe that a certified care provider would be right for your circumstances, contact us today. We refer qualified, screened care providers that are compassionate and ready to help. Contact us to schedule your free in-home consultation to discuss options for home and respite care in Tampa and surrounding areas from 14 offices across the state of Florida.