How to Keep Your Calm When Dealing with the Difficulties of Aging Parents
If you are experiencing difficult behavior from your aging loved ones, you are far from alone. In a study published in the Journals of Gerontology, 77 percent of adult children shared that their aging parents exhibit challenging behavior and often do not heed their advice. Hence, it’s critical to understand what role you can play in helping your loved one through this situation.
Aggressive behavior in seniors has devastating consequences on themselves as well as their families. Such behavior has a lot to do with the complexities of aging and its associated illnesses. For instance, living with chronic pain or loss of independence could be the reason for their aggression.
Managing this behavior while caring for parents isn’t easy for adult children. While their objective is to offer the best care possible, such difficult behavior can come in the way of helping seniors live a quality life.
Fortunately, the situation isn’t beyond hope! As a compassionate caregiver and a loving kid, you can adopt several strategies to stop the cycle of stressful situations and the associated difficult emotions like anger, blame, guilt, and frustration.
In this post, we’ll throw light on a few effective ways to manage such tricky situations while upholding your senior loved ones’ health and wellbeing.
Understand the Reason Behind Their Behavior
Aging is complex. Many older adults are fighting serious neurological disorders, dementia, and the associated anxiety and depression. A report shared by the Alzheimer’s Association reveals that 1 in 10 people age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s dementia (the most common form of dementia). Such underlying issues can be the cause of your senior loved ones’ difficult behavior.
Taking time to understand such issues will help you manage and communicate with them better. To help deal with the situation, ask yourself the following questions:
- Are they behaving this way out of habit?
- Are they trying to assert independence?
- Do you see any signs of depression?
- Do they look confused or lost?
Answering these questions will help you understand the root cause of their behavior, allowing you to come up with the best strategies to make a positive change.
Accept That You Cannot Change the Situation
Though you may want to control your senior parents ‘for their own good,’ the fact is that you cannot change them at this stage of their life. Your parents are adults who are capable of making – and have the right to make — their decisions (even the poor ones!).
So, no matter how much you try to justify your actions towards changing them for good, it will be seen as an attempt to infringe on their freedom. Bombarding them with your concerns about them will only make matters worse, regardless of how valid those concerns are.
When parents behave irrationally, it may be tempting for adult kids to switch roles and infantilize them. But dealing with difficult parents isn’t the same as managing stubborn children. So, treat them like adults!
The primary goal here is to help your aging parents receive the best possible care. Accept the fact that you cannot change them or the situation. This will lower stress and improve your relationship with your parents.
Give Vent to Your Feelings
It’s natural to feel resentful, frustrated, or upset with a parent for their hurtful behavior. If you feel the same, talk about your feelings with someone you trust. Confide in a close friend or family member, sibling, or therapist. You could also speak to a senior living counselor or healthcare provider.
When managing a difficult parent who’s constantly behaving irrationally, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with fear, frustration, anger, and anxiety. It helps to release the negative emotions by talking with someone who can help or just hear you out.
At Times, Learn to Put Yourself First
Caring for an aging parent in no way means you need to lose your sanity. Your peace of mind shouldn’t take a back seat. As much as you would love to care for your senior, braving the situation alone, taking in a difficult parent or accepting the responsibility of long-term chores isn’t for everyone. So, it’s okay to define boundaries and say ‘no.’
For instance, if a specific caregiver responsibility is getting you down, delegate it to a sibling or other close family member. This could ease much of the caregiver burden.
Remember to Take a Break
Don’t get so lost in caregiving that you forget to give yourself a break. At times, it helps to switch off from directing others, juggling home and job responsibilities, and managing other family issues.
Remember to nurture your body and soothe your mind by engaging in activities that you enjoy. Pick up a hobby or sign up for a yoga or meditation class. Be nice to yourself. This will strengthen you and better prepare you to deal with the resistance that difficult parents put up.
Applaud Yourself for Trying
Not succeeding every time you try to manage your parents’ tantrums and aggressive behavior is expected. You may even feel guilty about losing your cool at times. But what’s important is that you are trying to be a great caregiver.
Caring for a difficult parent can seem like an emotionally wrenching experience; yet you need to keep trying. Your parents may not praise or recognize your efforts, especially when they are battling conditions like dementia. In such cases, cognitive impairment may trigger behavior changes like suspicion, accusations, and nasty outbursts.
So, don’t do a good job of caregiving simply to get your parents’ approval. Do it for your sake and because it’s right to do so. However, remember to pat yourself on the back.
Tell yourself how brave and caring you are to forge on while facing these challenges. Appreciate your efforts in trying to make life manageable and ensuring a high quality of life for your parents, the best way you can.
Caring for aging parents gives us the opportunity to be around for the final chapter of their lives. However, caring for seniors isn’t easy, especially if they are exhibiting aggressive behavior.
Their decline will doubtlessly cause your heart to ache. Though you want to be supportive and care for them, it is often challenging to manage irrational behavior.
We hope the above tips make it easier for you to keep your calm through this overwhelming situation and take good care of your senior loved ones.
–by Jeff Hoyt
Jeff Hoyt works as the Editor-in-Chief at SeniorLiving. He writes articles that inspire seniors to live a better life independently. Many of his articles have been republished on websites like MSN, AOL, Yahoo, Fox News, and HuffPost, while Reader’s Digest has named him a financial expert. He is also a member of the Writers Guild of America and Phi Beta Kappa and has been nominated for an Emmy award. Enjoy his Senior Living YouTube videos.