Every experienced family caregiver knows that seniors have their good days and bad days. Mood swings resulting from dissatisfaction, poor health, stress, pain, and a loss of dignity can easily lead to your loved one to lash out against you and others that they care about. Being a family caregiver under these conditions can be particularly stressful for the sandwich generation, who are “sandwiched” between living with an elderly parent and caring for their own children.
While dealing with these feelings and the emotional strain they cause can require a considerable amount of patience and empathy, there’s much more you can do than simply hope for more good days than bad ones. Below you can learn about several simple steps you can take to help those you look after to be less cranky, and help preserve your own wellbeing as a family caregiver in the process.
Emotional Turmoil in the Elderly
Getting older can magnify our character traits, often in undesirable ways. Someone who was crabby in their younger days may be prone to full-on bouts of rage in old age. Unfortunately, caregivers are often the target of these outbursts, and it may seem at times as though there may be no simple solution to deal with this type of behavior. After all, when outbursts are not caused by serious problems like chronic pain or difficulties in memory, they’re often the result of serious illnesses like Alzheimer’s or dementia, over which your loved one has no control.
How to Handle Anger
The first step to dealing with these problems is to understand that you shouldn’t take these negative emotions and their associated behavior personally. Pain and disease can cause us to act in very inappropriate ways, and it’s important to take any opportunity for a break from your caregiving duties that you can get. In the long term, you’ll likely want to spread caregiving amongst as many friends and family members as you can to make the possibility of these breaks more frequent.
The best solution to dealing with difficult elderly parents is almost always communication. Unfortunately, parents can be generally uneasy talking with their children about fears of the future, finances, and their mortality. If your loved one seems increasingly frustrated, anxious, or otherwise emotionally disturbed, it’s your responsibility to find out why if you want to help fix the problem. The next time both of you are in a pleasant mood, try warming them up to the conversation, and be ready to try several times before you’re successful.
Cursing and Abusive Language
Verbal abuse and harsh language can be an even more complicated story, particularly when illnesses and children are involved. Profanities that are out-of-character are often the result of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, which can make them particularly difficult to cope with. While there’s no cure for these conditions, many people find that you can mitigate the problem of excessive swearing by using distractions. For example, you may attempt to divert your loved one’s attention from what they’re swearing about, or bring up happier times to lead them to reminisce.
Paranoia and Hallucinations
If your loved accuses you or your family members of wanting to harm them, they may be suffering from paranoia, hallucinations, or another serious mental disorder. Talk to your doctor about any hallucinations your loved one may experience, and determine if medications need to be altered in any way. Usually, paranoid behavior is the result of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. In these cases, the best solution to the problem of paranoid behavior is to try and use relaxation and validation to help your loved one cope. You generally won’t be able to convince someone what they’re experiencing is unreal, and doing so may cause them to become frustrated or angry.
Physical and Emotional Abuse
Like with emotional problems, your first line of defense in dealing with angry elderly parents who are prone to physical abuse is to open the lines of communication. Try engaging in a heart-to-heart conversation about how their abusive behavior makes you feel. This may not work, as many elderly are unaware that their behavior is abusive. In that case, you can attempt to cease providing care for your loved one for a short time to help them appreciate the value of your assistance.
If the abuse continues, you may need to consider consulting professional help, including family counselors, authorities, or even professional caregivers to help alleviate your workload. Although dealing with anger from the ones you love can be difficult, with communication and a little persistence, you should be able to achieve a much greater stress-free and healthy environment for your entire family.
Have you dealt with an angry parent or older loved one? Do you have any tips with dealing with outbursts? Please share your stories and tips in the comments below.