Denial is a defense everyone has used at least once in his or her life. It serves as a purpose to protect us from difficult feelings. It does a pretty good job of it, however it is not always healthy to be in denial.


Some of you may be taking care of aging parents. It’s hard to see your parents get older and this is where denial can sometimes get in the way of care. No one wants to see his or her once strong mom or dad become weak and frail. There is a role reversal that happens and often times you end up becoming the parent. This is both hard for the parent and the adult child. Even if you feel like you have a grasp on your aging parent, you still might not be aware of their declining health. That’s where the denial comes in. You may be aware that your parent has a severe chronic illness, but you could still be in denial about the severity. No matter how old you are there is part of us that still wants to turn to our mother and/or our father. Realizing that you may not have that is a tough pill to swallow. Also, no matter how old parents become there is part of them that still wants to protect us, so they may be withholding the truth. Here are some signs to be aware of with an aging loved one. Some are very obvious where others you might be surprised.


  • Loss of weight and loss of appetite. If they are living on their own take a look in their cabinets. Is there food? What kind of food? Be aware of dietary changes. If your loved one once cooked small meals once a day and now there is only cheese in a can, crackers and ice cream, this may be a sign of a change in health and/or energy.
  • Odor. Does your loved one have an odor? If they do they may not be able to wash themselves like they did previously. This may sound strange, but run the bath water if the water is rusty at first the bathtub is not getting much use.
  • Sleeping more. People can get tired when they get older and there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a nap. However, if that nap lasts the whole afternoon, there may be a reason for concern, especially if this is new behavior.
  • Not engaging in activities that previously gave them joy. They may not have the energy to engage in activities or they may be too anxious about health issues to concentrate on an activity.
  • Changes in mobility, frequent falls and forgetfulness.
  • Wanting to get their affairs in order. They may know their health is failing and want to create or relook at their trust, will or advanced directive.

The best things you can do are being present with them and encourage them to talk to you about their health. Don’t go in there with the attitude, “I’m going to whip them into shape,” and try and fix everything. You will just get very frustrated and they will get very frustrated. Sometimes our denial makes us think we can fix everything. Somethings we can’t fix. Focus on the things you can change, like possibly getting them a home nurse, taking them to doctor’s appointments or other appointments. The main thing is just being there for them and showing them love. You will be very happy that you did.

Facing Reality