How to Communicate with Aging Parents Who are Stubborn

Grandfather, granddaughter

It is a difficult place to be in to see your parents aging and starting to fail. As we switch roles between parent and child, we become the caregiver. This is often difficult for both of us.

We tend to get more stubborn with age and if your parents are making risky decisions it can be very problematic. But they may be doing it out of spite, or they may be declining and not know the difference.

Communicating with Aging, Stubborn Parents

It can be very frustrating when trying to communicate with someone who doesn’t want to take your advice. But, it needs to be done, so here are a few tips to help you.


Be Patient and Persistent

When trying to communicate with your aging parent, it’s important to understand it might not happen on the first try. You may have to keep revisiting the subject over and over.

Don’t lose your patients or get angry. It can be frustrating so you may need to let it go and come back at it another day. If your loved one has dementia, then it might be something you need to say every day.


Ask Them What They Want

Try to avoid making decisions about their care and welfare without including them in the conversation. They may need to be asked a few times, but don’t make the decision without their input.

Bringing someone in or moving them someplace they don’t want to go or are unfamiliar with can cause them to push back and refuse. They need to understand what is going on and agree to it.


Don’t Overwhelm Then With Too Much Information

Your parent or loved one may be acting stubborn simply because they can’t understand what is being said. If there is too much information to process they may just shut down and refuse to listen to any of it.

Tell them one thing that is going to be happening well in advance and then remind them again. If it is something they often do, like visiting family or a doctor’s appointment, then they will be ready.


Have a Conversation

When you are communicating, keep it casual and light. Make it like a conversation you would typically have when visiting. Talk about your own life and what is going on with you.

Telling them your needs can give the impression you are seeking their advice and including them in your life and decisions. That way, when you talk about their needs, it seems more natural.


Don’t Push or Nag

Trying to insist that someone do something can get their back up and you may never get them to agree. Be gentle and firm but don’t get upset and insist they have to do something,

You should also avoid giving them ultimatums. There is a good chance they will not be interested and they may resent you for it if they have to agree. You may have to give up and try again later.


Choose Your Moments

When someone is stressed or upset, they are not going to listen to you. When you need to have a challenging conversation with your loved one, pick a time when they are not already stressed.

That also means that you are not anxious or stressed. Calmer heads will prevail, so make sure the setting is right and everyone is calm and collected. Everyone needs to be relaxed in order to communicate.



Learning to listen to your aging parent is key to understanding what they need or want. If they have dementia, then you need to listen between the lines. See how they react to certain topics.

Let them lead the conversation and ask questions if you are not clear about something. Asking them questions shows them you are engaged and care about their needs.


Don’t Argue

Making demands and arguing with your parents is not going to be progressive. Don’t tell them they are wrong or try to correct them. You can ask them how they think that will work and ask them to explain it.

They may see their own errors and be more open to accepting advice. But arguing with them will never get you what you want. Listen to them and then gently guide them to consider a better idea.