5 Tips for Building Positive Relationships With Care Recipients
Caring for aging parents can feel like a role reversal at times, with caregivers taking on more of the role their parents once had when they were children. Feeling dependent on caregivers can leave care recipients feeling like they're losing their independence, leading to increasing feelings of resentment and frustration. That's just one of the potential sources of conflict that derail the relationship.
Building positive relationships is essential for caregivers and their loved ones. It can help ease things on both sides, making the experience even more rewarding for everyone involved. Whether you're just starting out on a caregiving journey or you're already on the path and experiencing friction, these five tips can help strengthen the parent-child relationship and minimize conflicts with care recipients to nurture healthy, loving relationships by building trust.
Don't Wait to Start Communicating
The earlier you start, the better things will be. Ideally, you'll be able to open a conversation with the care recipient about how he or she wants to age and envisions the relationship from the very start. If not, start now. Pick up the phone or stop by to talk about what the present and the future may hold. Being open to having tough conversations and listening to what the care recipient wants is the key to building trust and maintaining positive relationships. Avoid telling them what to do. Instead, ask them how they’d like to resolve the situation.
Allow the Care Recipient to Make Decisions
The loss of independence and the fear of the unknown can be a powerful combination, with the feeling of losing control often fueling resentments and negativity. Even when the care recipient is no longer able to make big decisions, they can still have some autonomy. For example, you might allow them to choose what they’ll eat for meals or where you'll go on a day trip. Feeling they have a say in something can help balance the relationship.
Work Through Feelings
In some cases, old feelings can resurface later in life. For some caregivers, the relationship may have been turbulent and filled with old conflicts that still rub both sides raw when they're back in close contact and under a new dynamic. To make things better, you both need to be open and honest about your feelings. In some cases, old hurts are easily healed after being acknowledged or better understood with an explanation. It may also help to let go of those old feelings and reacquaint yourself with the care recipient and who they are today.
Define What You Want From the Relationship
In human relationships, it's rare for everything to be easy. It helps to understand your goals when building positive relationships. After assessing what the relationship's like now, mentally identify the parts of your relationship you're proud of and the things you'd like to change. This will help you figure out the areas you can strengthen. The areas that are already strong can give you building blocks to create a foundation for the relationship moving forward.
Be Slow to Introduce Changes
Change can be difficult for care recipients to accept. When possible, start introducing the need for changes early enough to allow time for the care recipient to mull it over before you introduce the changes. Be open about the reasons the changes are important. For example, if your parents are struggling with their finances and you want to oversee them or take them over completely, explain why it matters and how it will benefit them. Move slowly and give recipients time to adjust. In the long run, this will make things easier on both of you by reducing conflict.
Ultimately, building positive relationships is a two-way street, but caregivers are often the ones in the driver's seat. Be present and meet the care recipient where they are now. The care recipient might not be the same as they were a few years ago, but if you take the time to engage and spend time, you'll find more ways to connect. In turn, it'll help you build a stronger relationship.
Kimberly-Clark US makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. This information should be used only as a guide and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional medical or other health professional advice.