Let Them Eat Cake! 12 Things you can do to improve your Relationship with Aging Parents while Caregiving…



Caregiving for our elderly parents can be one of the most anxiety inducing, stressful times of our lives. It can also be a time of all consuming sadness and another unwanted lesson in letting go. It will also be a time when we struggle with our siblings and extended families as well as with our own emotions.

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There are a few simple things we can do to lessen the stress and make the experience a more rewarding one for both of you.

At what other time in your life will you be so close with someone who literally has one foot in Heaven (hopefully,) or wherever you believe, they are headed.

Right now your hours may be extremely long but the days are quickly growing shorter and shorter. Choose your battles with your parent and your siblings wisely. Ask these questions before battling:

  • What will it matter at the end?
  • How will it affect his/her quality of life?
  • Is there a compromise that can be made here?

1] First and foremost you must let go of your need to control them and/ or the situation. They are not children and should never be treated like babies.

2] Do not try to change them, it is a waste of time and causes massive amounts of frustration for both of you. Instead, change you and the way you react.

3] Breath and count to ten. Repeat often.

4] Listen to them more and talk at them less. When they are gone you will wish you had.

5] Never get angry with them, ever. This may be their last day here, let them live it the way they want.

6] Forgive them for everything, not for them but for you.

7] Be kind to them and everyone involved in their care including, yourself.

8] Let them eat and drink whatever they want when they want. If they are diabetic and want to eat sweets find a compromise. If they refuse to drink water offer iced tea.


9] If they want to stay up all night watching infomercials let them. If they want to sleep all day let them.

10] If they no longer want to take their pills throw the pills away. Do they really need those vitamins? If they need to take something for pain or blood pressure try to compromise with them. Crush any vital meds and put them in applesauce, pudding or ice cream.

11] Never, ever argue with them. It will just frustrate and make you both angry. What is the point of that? Give in and you will both be happier.

12] If they don’t want to go out do not force them. They may be fearful of falling or of being a burden. Let them stay home but be sure to bring them a plate and plenty of photo’s. You may not believe they are doing their best and that is okay but chances are they are trying.

Will it matter in the end

During a parent’s illness is the worst time to air family grievances. Discuss your parent’s wishes while they can still express them. Elect someone to be in charge that will support your parent’s wishes and support whoever that person is. If that person is you accept help when it is offered and if no one offers to help ask someone.

While caregiving for a parent is without a doubt a sad situation it can also be one of the most meaningful things you will ever do.

32 Responses to “Let Them Eat Cake! 12 Things you can do to improve your Relationship with Aging Parents while Caregiving…”

  • Pat:

    Great advice. Thanks for all the tips. I will keep them in mind while caring for my elderly parents this summer.

  • What a wonderful post. I am my mother’s caregiver and couldn’t be happier. I know the memories we make now I will cherish for the rest of my life. It’s not always easy but it is a job that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

  • I love you for posting this, Doreen! I was so lucky to have such a wonderful relationship with my Mom that caregiving was quite a breeze. Tired, stressed, but never unwilling. When we knew her condition was getting worse, we tried our best to indulge her in all the things she loved and was afraid to do for fear of being a burden on us. She was the most cheerful person and I remember, particularly during her last six months, although she was in severe pain, she not only encouraged us all the time to be cheerful, but showed by example. I think it was divine intervention that all of us became very consciously closer, as if we were afraid of letting her go. She had to be on special diets, but I am so glad now that I insisted she enjoyed all the food she especially liked. She was always so considerate – and never hesitated to tell us what she wanted after she passed on. Consequently, even though we didn’t have any plans or arrangements in place when she passed away, we were so fortunate to have people organize things for us – to donate her body to the medical college – which was her last wish.

    The questions you listed touched my heart. Today, I try and practice them with any relationship.

    Love and hugs, Doreen.

  • Having watched an otherwise most peaceful grandmother getting agitated because she was deprived her small pleasures, like peanuts, I decided that I will allow my parents to eat whatever they like. People should die happy, not deprived.
    Your advice is brilliant, Doreen! Sharing it.
    Love and hugs…..

  • Carolyn Newman:

    Thank you for these wise, wise words. I will remember them every day, post them on my mirror if I have to!

  • Good solid advice. I’ve done a 10 year stint of caregiving for my ex-husband, being there with him til the end. I don’t think it will be quite as “easy” with my mother, I am her designated caregiver, POA and more…but we’ll see. Keeping family issues at bay is going to be a challenge–the “I would do it this way” argument has already cropped up!

  • Dear Doreen,
    Been there and done it all. Really.
    After battling for decades, my mother and I reached an agreement when my husband and I helped her move into a senior citizen home. She no longer had to fight, and neither did I.
    Those last six years were a gift and although not always easy, a joy.
    You’re right on the mark.
    In the days before the Internet I gave her SASE (something all writers (used to) know; self addressed and stamped envelopes. I think for many seniors this may still be a very good gift.
    Thanks for being there, and for sharing, you’re such a gem.

  • Dawn:

    My parents passed away a long time ago but I’ve watched my best friend struggle with caring for her parents. Her mom has now passed away and her dad just moved into an assisted living home. He did not want to go but now he loves it! I know that’s a relief for my friend. She also has to remember to keep her patience and remember all they did for her growing up. It has to be difficult sometimes.

  • pia:

    Really good Doreen.
    My mother was the first person we knew to get macular degeneration—the doctors kept saying it couldn’t get any worse. It could.
    I would go to the doctor’s appointments. The doctors would talk to me. I would say “talk to my mother not me.”

    Once the great god of macular was giving one of his “it can’t get any worse…” speeches and I exploded about the false hope he was holding.

    I happen to be a geriatric social worker. He offered me a job (so eloquent in my anger!) and my mother told that story for the rest of her life.

    It felt good to explode–because 18 years ago few people thought about what was going to happen to their parents and my sister and I (who didn’t get along then) felt very alone.

    My parents had always been so young, vibrant and healthy but they were older and all the exercise in the world didn’t stop my father from keeling over and my mother from getting macular.

    They had a wonderful doctor but he retired. The new young doctor stopped my way too skinny mother from eating her one square of dark chocolate a night–pre-diabetes. she was 85. Her friends would leave their frozen yougurt and ice cream containers in her freezer as she was so disciplined. It wouldn’t have killed her and would have given her pleasure

    The thing is when somebody has a progressive chronic condition like my mother had there will be stress as it can go on for 20 years. She wouldn’t get an aide until the last year–4 hours a day 5 days a week. It gave my sister and I our lives back.

    I worked, then worked and went to grad school, then worked and traveled two hours each way every other weekend and for all doctor’s visits–would have to get her, bring her back to Manhattan, go to the appointment, bring her back to Nassau County and be home so I could go to work or school. Feel like I gave up my 40’s. Hear it’s a good decade. I don’t drive so it was all done by public transport or car service,

    And she always made the appointments for Fridays before holidays because “it’s easier for you.” “No it’s easier for the staff at your doctors. Nobody wants an appointment then.” So the hour and a half became 3-4 hours. I almost was unable to vote in the 2000 election. I probably would have killed her. (It was an easy day to get a doctor’s appointment!)

    My father made great arrangement but because my mother couldn’t see she refused to give up what little control she had. I understood that. But I needed a life also. It’s taken me a long time to work out the anger and very mixed feelings

    • I am sorry you had to go through all of that. Losing eyesight has got to be just awful.
      You are so right though, a progressive disease
      can go on for many years.

  • Thanks for writing this. At this moment we are heavily engaged in a loved one’s final journey. She’s 80 and dying of cancer, and I had the great honor of caring for her over the last three days. It’s been a remarkable experience, particularly seeing how she’s been shedding her layers of self protection to let all of the love in. We are all loving her, and she’s receiving it, and it’s an honor to be part of this experience with her. She’s had a complex life, but right now, it’s about comfort and love. Out of the many things I’ve taken away, one is “there is always time for love.”

  • I love this so much! All too often we feel this need to make reality match for everyone and that is just not necessary!!! I will share this message!!! Thank you Doreen!

  • Excellent advice, Doreen. It’s so difficult to not get frustrated and angry at times. Your tip to count to 10 (often) is helpful! Thank you for sharing this.

  • Such wise advice. When my grandmother was in her 90s we bought her all of her favorite foods all the time no matter what the doctors said, if something that small made her happy, it was worth it to us to see her happy.

  • Such great advice. My mother and her husband tend to sleep until 10 or 10:30 each day. My brother and I used to worry and/or be irritated by this, but hey, if that’s what makes them happy, that’s what they should do!

  • This is the best advice I’ve seen. I’m tweeting.

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