thrive emotionally
Setting Boundaries: Understanding Others

Staying Strong Together: Strategies for Seniors and Caregivers to Thrive Emotionally

As we journey through life, our relationships with family members, particularly between seniors and their adult children, hold immense significance.

These relationships are often filled with love, care, and support, but they can also bring about emotional challenges that require delicate navigation, like impatience, anger, and guilt.

One crucial aspect of maintaining healthy relationships is establishing and respecting emotional boundaries.

Let’s explore what emotional boundaries entail, how families can protect themselves from getting their feelings hurt, and what to do if sensitivity becomes overwhelming.

Understanding Emotional Boundaries

Emotional boundaries means the limits we set within ourselves and with others regarding our emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. These boundaries dictate how much emotional energy we invest in relationships and how we respond to others' emotions.

For seniors and their adult children, establishing emotional boundaries is vital for maintaining a healthy balance between support and personal space. We never want to start “disliking” those we love. I’ll explain what happens when we do this below. 

These boundaries help us understand our own feelings and needs while respecting the feelings and needs of others. Emotional boundaries involve knowing when to say "yes" and when to say "no" to certain emotional experiences, interactions, or demands from others. (I cover a lot of this in the Senior Freedom Club). They are crucial for maintaining healthy relationships, as they provide a framework for how we engage with and respond to others' emotions while also protecting our own emotional well-being. Setting and respecting emotional boundaries involves clear communication, self-awareness, and the ability to assertively express our needs and preferences in relationships.

Protecting Against Hurt Feelings

In families, misunderstandings and hurt feelings will arise when emotional boundaries are unclear or disregarded. To protect themselves from getting their feelings hurt, family members can take several proactive steps:

  • Open Communication: Encourage open and honest communication within the family. Expressing thoughts and feelings openly can prevent misunderstandings and help clarify expectations regarding emotional boundaries.

  • Respect Each Other's Space: Recognize and respect each other's need for personal space and emotional autonomy. Avoid imposing one's emotions or opinions onto others and allow space for individual perspectives.

  • Set Clear Expectations: Establish clear expectations regarding emotional support and boundaries. Discuss and negotiate boundaries openly, ensuring that everyone's needs and preferences are respected.

  • Practice Empathy: Acknowledge and validate each other's feelings, even if they differ from one's own. Here is where you are going to do some self-reflection. See how self-relfection works under “Dealing with Sensitivity”. 

  • Boundaries with Technology: In today's digital age, it's essential to set boundaries around technology use within the family. Limiting screen time and maintaining face-to-face communication can foster deeper emotional connections and reduce the risk of miscommunication or hurt feelings.

Dealing with Sensitivity

Seniors and adult children find themselves struggling with sensitivity, making it challenging to navigate emotional boundaries effectively. Here are some strategies to cope with sensitivity:

  • Self-Reflection: Take time for self-reflection to understand the underlying reasons for sensitivity. The root of insensitivity comes from not liking or appreciating the person. 

  • In the Senior Freedom Club, we promote practicing self-reflection in order to gain empathy  

  • For example, let’s say a family member is “grating on our nerves”.  We are sick and tired of hearing about all the ailments this person tell us about. Or maybe they repeat themselves all the time. How do we get out from under ourselves?

    Get out old pictures of you and this person. Remind yourself how this person was there for you. Remember the love laughter, and smiles you once had for this person. All of this is still there. Just dig a little deeper and you will find the patience and empathy to re-self-reflect yourself. 
  • Seek Support: Reach out to trusted friends, family members, or a therapist for support and guidance. Talking to someone who understands can provide perspective and help develop coping mechanisms.

  • Practice Self-Care: Prioritize self-care activities that promote emotional well-being, such as mindfulness, relaxation techniques, hobbies, or spending time in nature. 

  • Set Personal Boundaries: Establish clear personal boundaries to protect oneself from emotional overwhelm. Communicate these boundaries assertively but respectfully to others.

  • Learn to Say No: Recognize the importance of saying no when necessary to preserve emotional energy and avoid overextending oneself. Setting limits on commitments and responsibilities can help manage sensitivity.

Navigating emotional boundaries within families, especially between aging parents and their adult children, requires patience, understanding, and open communication.

The emotional roller-coaster you engage in is not going away.

But you can smooth out the edges with practice.

Add more fun times and memories into your days. Get out and feel better about yourself. Remember who each of you are to each other, and be blessed that you have had them in your lives before and still do.  

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Setting Boundaries: Understanding Others

4 Ways to Provide Support While Encouraging Senior Independence

Striking a Balance: How Much Help is Too Much?

When older adults start needing help with everyday stuff, our first instinct is to offer as much as possible. We do it because we care about their safety, feel responsible, or want to make life easier for them. But sometimes, our good intentions can cause problems.

Dr. Barry J. Jacobs talks about caring for his mom and how he ended up taking away her independence without realizing it. He says, "With all my best intentions and hard work, I mostly stopped her from doing things on her own." This shows that helping too much can make our loved ones feel like they've lost control.

Tips for Finding the Right Balance

1. Talk it Out: Before they really need help, talk to your loved one about how things might change. Figure out what kind of help they'd like when they need it. Planning ahead can make things easier for both of you. And  don't expect them to agree with everything you say. You  may see a danger issue when they may see an independence issue. 

For example:  Mom has a doctor's appointment. She want to go on her own and drive there, too.  Her daughter wants to go with her to hear what the doctor is saying and learn about her mother's health. Mom knows if her daughter is there then she can't talk freely to her doctor. Her daughter knows if she isn't there, her mom doesn't tell her everything. 

What do you do?

You trust one another. That's the conversation you both have upfront.  It is not a time to criticize or hold back.  For mom, it's a time to trust that her daughter has a right not to worry about her and a time to know her true medical concerns that she will discuss with her and the doctor. 

For her daughter, it's a time to understand that her mom trusts her doctor and feels this is the one person she can rely on for her medical care. She does not want her daughter to interfere with this conversation.  Therefore, the daughter knows upfront not to intrude but to trust her mom to give the correct, complete, and accurate information to her doctor. And the  daughter agrees to this willingly without judgement or "fixing".

2. Wait and See: Don't rush to help every time they struggle. Watch and see if they really need it. Sometimes, what seems like a problem is just a one-time thing.

For example: Dad wants to stay in the home and doesn't keep it up like he used to. His son wants to move dad because he can't keep up with the house anymore. 

What do you do?

Dad needs to let his son know that he can't do it all anymore. And when he feels he needs help, he will let him know.  He also lets his son know that if he feels it's unsafe he will tell his son. 

His son, on the other hand, will let Dad know that he sees the things that need attention but understand there is no rush to fix it immediately. He will give Dad time to figure out the priorities around the house. The biggest ones being heating, cooling, electric, plumbing, and kitchen appliances. Of course, the roof, doors and windows must function properly. 

This conversation leads us into #3...

3. Focus on Abilities: Encourage them to do things on their own as much as possible. This helps them feel capable and confident. You can help by showing them easier ways to do things or breaking tasks into smaller steps.

4. Encourage Help: Remind them that getting help doesn’t mean they can’t do things themselves. It’s about helping them stay safe while doing what they can on their own. Always give one another choices or options. If you or your family member have an idea, then give 2-3 ideas but no more than that. See my FREE Caregiver's Starter Guide, Chapter 3 to see how to do this. 

When we are given options, we tend to pick one instead of throwing out the whole idea. 

caaregiver's starter guide

Balancing Safety and Respect

Deciding how much help to give can be tough. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Talk about Changes: It’s hard to talk about getting older, but it’s important. Discuss any changes in abilities and how to stay safe.
  2. Put Safety First: Some things, like driving or taking medicines, can be dangerous if not done right. If you're worried, don’t hesitate to take steps to keep them safe. It's a way of showing you care.
  3. Respect Their Choices: Let them make their own decisions about things that aren’t risky. If they can do something safely, let them. It's about respecting their independence and dignity.
  4. Embrace Change: Sometimes, they might resist changes like using a walker. But if it keeps them safe, it’s worth it. Encourage them to see it as a way to stay independent and dignified.

Finding the right balance between helping and respecting their independence takes patience and understanding. By communicating openly and being mindful of their needs, we can support each other in maintaining our dignity while ensuring everyone's emotional and mental health. 

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setting boundaries
Setting Boundaries: Understanding Others

Breaking Down Barriers: A Deep Dive into the World of Healthy Boundaries

When we talk about boundaries, it's easy to picture barriers that separate us from others. Walls that delineate where we end and someone else begins. While this might sound isolating, establishing healthy boundaries is actually a cornerstone of maintaining fulfilling relationships and safeguarding our well-being. Let's delve into what healthy boundaries entail and how they contribute to our overall happiness.

What are Healthy Boundaries?

At its core, healthy boundaries are about setting limits that define what is acceptable to you and what is not. These boundaries can be physical, emotional, mental, and psychological, encompassing a wide array of aspects in our lives. 

caregivers starter guide

To see more on Boundaries, Self-Care, and Resources, get my FREE Caregiver's Starter Guide

Go ove this ebook with your senior, and discuss the topics. It will open communcation for both you and them. 

Why Boundaries Matter

Encourage Autonomy and Reduce Codependency: Healthy boundaries foster independence and self-reliance, reducing the tendency to become overly dependent on others for our happiness or sense of self-worth.

Set Expectations: They establish clear expectations for behavior, communication, and mutual respect, thereby preventing misunderstandings and conflicts in relationships.

Empowerment and Self-Respect: By asserting our boundaries, we assert our value and worth, leading to greater self-respect and empowerment in our interactions.

Physical and Emotional Comfort: Boundaries ensure that we feel safe and comfortable, both physically and emotionally, in our relationships and interactions with others.

Clarify Responsibilities: They delineate individual responsibilities within relationships, ensuring that each party understands their role and obligations.

Differentiate Personal Needs: Healthy boundaries help differentiate our own wants, needs, thoughts, and feelings from those of others, allowing us to maintain our individuality and authenticity.

Types of Healthy Boundaries

Healthy boundaries come in various forms, each serving a distinct purpose in our lives and relationships. Let’s explore some common types:

Physical Boundaries: These boundaries pertain to personal space and physical touch. Examples include setting limits on physical intimacy or defining personal territories, such as bedrooms or workspaces.

Sexual Boundaries: These boundaries involve consent, comfort, and mutual respect in sexual interactions. They ensure that all parties feel safe and respected in intimate situations.

Emotional Boundaries: Emotional boundaries protect our emotional well-being by defining limits on what we are willing to discuss, share, or tolerate emotionally. They help prevent emotional manipulation or overwhelm.

Material/Financial Boundaries: These boundaries relate to possessions, money, and material resources. They involve setting limits on lending, borrowing, or sharing material goods to avoid exploitation or resentment.

Time Boundaries: Time boundaries involve managing our time effectively and prioritizing our commitments. They help us allocate time for ourselves, our relationships, and our responsibilities without feeling overwhelmed or stretched thin.

Unhealthy Boundaries

On the flip side, unhealthy boundaries can manifest in two primary ways: rigidity and porousness.

Rigid Boundaries: These boundaries are excessively strict, keeping others at a distance and inhibiting genuine connection and intimacy in relationships. We've all seen this with teachers who were so strict we hardly liked or learned from them

Porous Boundaries: Porous boundaries, on the other hand, are overly flexible they are people pleasser on steroids. They say 'yes' to everything and then disappoint.  They can lead to feelings of resentment, exploitation, or overwhelm.

Understanding the root causes of unhealthy boundaries, such as a desire for control, fear of rejection, lack of experience, overly agreeable personality, or low self-esteem, is crucial in addressing and overcoming these patterns. Some people are "stuck" in their childhood behavior and never developed boundaries. 

Enabling Behavior

In certain situations, maintaining healthy boundaries becomes especially critical, such as when dealing with loved ones struggling with age, addiction, or mental health issues. Enabling behavior, where we shield others from facing the consequences of their actions, only perpetuates harmful patterns and impedes their growth and recovery.

Instead of enabling, it's essential to set firm boundaries that encourage accountability and facilitate positive change. This might involve calling them out on their behavior, seeking support from professionals, and practicing self-care to navigate these challenging dynamics effectively.

In conclusion, healthy boundaries are essential for fostering meaningful relationships, preserving our well-being, and promoting personal growth. By understanding and asserting our boundaries, we create spaces where mutual respect, understanding, and authenticity can flourish, enriching both our interpersonal connections and our own lives.

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setting boundaries
Setting Boundaries: Understanding Others

The Power of Boundaries: Building Healthy Relationships

There are two types of people in this world, those who set boundaries and those who do not.

Building relationships with others means taking care of yourself first and that is adamantly sticking to what you believe is best for you. When we waver from this, the people around us do not know what our boundaries are. They become confused and it seems like they may even be taking advantage of us when we don't speak out consistently.

There are seniors out there who enjoy their families tremendously because they have set boundaries early in their lives. Their families know what to expect from their loved ones as they age.

Super Ager Starter Guide


See how these seniors acheived this in chapter 3 of this FREE The Super-Ager's Starter Guide. Do you do all these things? 

Then there are those families who are beginning to take care of an aging senior and never had boundaries. While the physical demands are progressing, the family member finds it harder and harder to understand what the senior wants versus what the senior needs. This creates more conflict.

Why are boundaries so important?

Boundaries are crucial for maintaining healthy relationships, preserving individual well-being, and fostering a sense of self-respect and autonomy. Establishing and maintaining boundaries involves setting limits on the behaviors, actions, and demands from others that individuals are willing to accept. 

Here are 10 reasons why we want to set boundaries.

Respect and Autonomy:

Boundaries are fundamental to respecting individual autonomy. They help establish a clear understanding of personal space, preferences, and limits. Respecting others' boundaries demonstrates acknowledgment and consideration for their autonomy. 

There are ways to discuss your boundaries without blaming or shaming another person into doing something they think is best for us. Words that hurt us mean we have not discussed our boundaries with those we spend time with..

Emotional Well-being:

Healthy boundaries contribute to emotional well-being by preventing the intrusion of negative influences. When individuals set boundaries, they create a protective space that safeguards their emotions, preventing unnecessary stress, resentment, and emotional exhaustion.

Boundaries keep us on an even keel. we are not torn between doing one thing and feeling guilty about another because those we love think they know what's best for us.

Maintaining Healthy Relationships:

Boundaries are essential for building and maintaining healthy relationships. Clear communication about personal needs and expectations fosters mutual understanding and respect. In contrast, blurred or nonexistent boundaries can lead to misunderstandings, conflict, and strained relationships.

Again, boundaries don't have to be hard but they do have to be black or white. confusion sets in when we allow our boundaries to fall by the wayside on some days, but on other days we're very strict and it almost feels like a backlash to the person who got away with it yesterday but can't get away with it today.

Preventing Burnout:

Setting limits on time, energy, and commitments helps prevent burnout. Without clear boundaries, individuals may find themselves overextended, taking on more responsibilities than they can handle. Establishing realistic boundaries promotes a balanced lifestyle and prevents exhaustion.

Not a truer statement can be made than this one about family caregivers. So many of our members in the Senior Freedom Club set up their boundaries and implement them with practice. This changes their lives as they get through the caregiving process.

Clarity is key here to make sure everybody understands the what-ifs.

Protecting Physical and Mental Health:

Boundaries are crucial for protecting both physical and mental health. This includes setting limits on exposure to toxic relationships, stressful situations, or environments that may negatively impact well-being. Clear boundaries contribute to a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle.

Speaking of what-ifs, we have to look at the exit strategy both the seniors and their family members take when they can no longer get along. Commonly what happens is that family members continue to live together and the stress becomes too great for both of them. Exit strategy means that there comes a point ahead of time where the discussion takes place and everyone knows when certain things occur it is time to move on and away from each other. By doing so, the relationships get better when they can see each other once in a while but not live together anymore.

Promoting Self-Care:

Boundaries play a key role in promoting self-care. They empower individuals to prioritize their own needs and allocate time for activities that contribute to their well-being, whether it's rest, recreation, or personal development.

Self-care is about prioritizing what's important to you. In dealing with other individuals, it is natural to not want to see certain people on certain days depending on how you feel. To know that you have a safe place to go and time to relax and get your mood and energy back up to where you like it is critical.

Clarifying Expectations:

Boundaries help clarify expectations in various relationships, both personal and professional. Clear communication about personal limits prevents misunderstandings, reduces conflicts, and fosters a more harmonious and productive environment.

Families who understand boundaries do not have guilt. They understand and respect one another's personal preferences. For example, the family caregiver who is sacrificing her marriage to take care of her mom has not set consistent boundaries. But look at the family caregiver who completely and honestly tells her mom that the caregiving is jeopardizing her marriage. Her mom respects this and together they seek other caregiving choices.

Encouraging Personal Growth:

Healthy boundaries create a supportive framework for personal growth. They provide the space and conditions necessary for individuals to explore their interests, pursue goals, and develop a strong sense of self.

Nothing is truer than how boundaries encourage personal growth. Over and over again I saw my patients’ families telling my patients they couldn't do certain things anymore. In fact, in many cases, the senior is told to move in with their adult child when they want to stay independent. Nowadays, there are so many choices to do so. 

Super seniors understand that they have to stay adventurous, active, and in personal growth. Although their family members may not always agree with them, they do support them.

Enhancing Communication Skills:

Setting and maintaining boundaries require effective communication skills. Learning to express needs, assertively communicate limits, and negotiate boundaries contributes to improved interpersonal communication.

Being very clear in your conversation without blame or shame is critical in setting boundaries. One of the things we teach our members in the Senior Freedom Club is that when a loved one calls them ‘selfish’ it truly means, “Don't please you, please me.” Now who's being selfish?

Empowering Individuals:

Establishing and enforcing boundaries empowers individuals to take control of their lives. It reinforces a sense of agency and self-determination, allowing individuals to make choices aligned with their values and goals.

There is no better feeling than having great relationships with your family. Whether you are a senior who enjoys outings with your family and the laughter that goes with it or you're a family member who can't wait to see their super aging senior, you are blessed.

And this all came down to setting those boundaries, knowing how to respect one another, and being clear on what each individual wants and needs. 

Other Articles You Might Like:  11 Self-Care Rules Super Seniors and Their Family Caregivers Follow

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