What to do when your conversation with your parent turns unreasonable

When angry with someone, it helps to sit down and think about the problem.

A friend told me the other day she was trapped in a debate with her parents who were going to fire their beloved cleaning lady. Her parents were convinced they were going to have to pay her social security. She did not work enough to come close to the hours needed, but her parents would not be swayed on this topic. She was at a loss on how to move through this conversation.

As I have shared many of the changes in my parents, many of those around me have come to realize they might be dealing with a parent who has some form of dementia. At 65, the Alzheimer’s Association reports one in eight suffer from some form of dementia and by 85, that number is one in two! The changes, even subtle ones, will impact your relationship with your parent.

I shared with my friend that when a conversation seems unreasonable or gets contentious; I abort the conversation as quickly and as pleasantly as I can. My go-to moves include excusing myself to:

  1. Use the restroom
  2. Get something to drink
  3. Make a phone call

If I return and they want to revisit the topic, I will move to the more elaborate options:

  1. Go to the grocery store
  2. Visit the art gallery in the retirement community
  3. Ask my dad if he got the mail today

Think back on your conversations and you might recall that your parent was very emotional. I found that my parents feed off the emotion I’m displaying. They were not listening to a word I said and the conversation would cycle through the same topics. I would grow more agitated with each cycle.

Now, I end the conversation and at a later time, consider if there is a way around the issue. In most cases, I won’t even comment until I’m specifically asked a question (this was VERY difficult for me).

In the instance of my friend, I suggested she tell her parents that she could pay the cleaning lady from her business account where due to her hours, she won’t have to pay the social security and employment taxes. While she has no intention of putting the expense through the business and would pay it from her personal account – it is a reasonable option that her parents might easily accept.

I had to learn that the civilized debate my parents encouraged at the dinner table was no longer part of our family dynamic. I needed to change to help my parents navigate their evolving landscape. Explored.

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