One thing that can help is to realize that the little kid inside of us most likely still wants our parents’ approval. When we can’t get that, even as adult caregivers, it hurts. To cope with those needs, it often helps to learn the techniques of detachment.
People detach by learning to understand that they can’t control their parents (or spouse), so they stop trying. Sometimes, just this step makes a difference, as the person who has been pushing your buttons – making you angry because he or she knows your triggers – starts to see it doesn’t work. Detaching with love means that you affirm that you love the person, but will no longer tolerate being treated with meanness or disrespect.
You set boundaries and make them clear. If the parent continues to complain just to see your reaction or to manipulate you, criticize your every move and generally abuse you verbally, you tell them you will get someone else to take care of them until you both cool off.
This takes some planning, especially if the parent is truly in need of constant care. You may need to set up an in-home service for few hours a week, then see what you can do to call them on an as-needed basis. This can be tough, but if you call around you may find a service available.
If your situation is truly intolerable, Social Services may have to step in. The main thing is, don’t waver. If you tell your abusive elder you are setting boundaries and you will call for help and then leave them for a time, do it. It may only take one or two times before the cycle is broken, though if the dynamics are life-long, it could take much longer.
Detaching With Love: Setting Boundaries in Toxic Relationships originally appeared on AgingCare.com.