Handling Aging Parents: Coping Strategies for Difficult Behaviors

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Caring for senior parents can be both a fulfilling and stressful task. When elderly adults start losing their freedom, independence, and strength, they can end up using other cues to communicate. They can appear irrational, depressed, stubborn, and negative at times. But since you are now mostly in charge, you have no choice but learn how to deal with such complex behaviors.

When Seniors Resist Help

Many family caregivers find it challenging to offer a helping hand to senior loved ones who are too stubborn to accept help. Studies show that seniors and their family caregivers determine stubbornness in aging parents. Some seniors feel so frustrated that they are no longer the ones in charge.

What you can do is to identify the possible reasons why they are resisting help. This can be any of the following factors:

  • Anger
  • Dementia
  • Fear of change
  • Fear of aging and death
  • Feelings of losing control
  • Fear of losing independence

For example, many family caregivers find it hard to discuss other housing options for their senior loved ones. These days, more seniors would rather age in place than join a senior community after retirement. They might fear change, or they could be due to the fact that they are slowly starting to show signs of dementia.

Moving houses and living in a senior living home means a huge change in their routines, how they live, and who they get to socialize with. This is the best time to talk to them heart-to-heart and address their specific concerns. But if you fear that their stubbornness is linked to dementia, it helps to talk to their doctor asap for an early diagnosis.

When a Senior Loved One Is Now Irrational

Some seniors end up having bouts of irrational behaviors, which often frustrates their loved ones. This could be your senior parent believing a visitor stole something from his home or your dad asking when his favorite son who passed away years ago will come home. What you may think absurd behavior could already be a sign of an underlying cognitive impairment.

If your senior loved one now has dementia, communicating with them will be an ongoing battle. Sometimes, orienting them with reality will only cause frustration and embarrassment. The best way to deal with this is by getting on their level.

Instead of correcting them, choose to live in their world for as long as it does not cause them any harm. Allowing them to enjoy the world they are in will help you create great memories. If you do not know their actual condition, take them to the proper healthcare professional.

When Seniors End Up Being Negative

Some caregivers feel like they never did anything right after their senior loved ones turn into their own critics. In reality, this could be a coping mechanism to hide a real problem. For one, seniors express frustration and discomfort through criticizing.

Bored seniors also end up living with no sense of purpose. Your aging parent might have been a successful professional in his field who is often the life of the party. But because of everything that happened and his lack of socialization, he may now have a negative mindset.

Your loved one could be in extreme pain and discomfort caused by his medical condition. Instead of telling you directly how they feel, they can end up criticizing your caregiving skills, their living space, or everyone around them. This, in turn, demotivates you and makes you want to question if you ever did anything right in return.

What caregivers can do is turn your loved one’s negativity into something positive. Redirect their attention into something positive and make them reminisce about things that make them feel good. If this fails and you feel like you need help, don’t hesitate to reach out to a pro and your other loved ones.

When Seniors End Up Depressed

According to a study, up to 6.5 million older adults are at risk of developing depression. Lack of control, retirement, loneliness, declining health, death of loved ones, and many others can cause depression in seniors. Knowing the signs of depression is the first step to dealing with such behaviors.

Remember to honor their feelings because all emotions are valid. If there is one thing you should know about adults, it is that they value their primary healthcare provider’s words. Suggest that you book an appointment and that you will be there to see their doctor boost their confidence.

Many seniors are irrational, depressed, negative, and resistant to help. Know that there are still ways you can help your senior loved one despite these changes in their behaviors. More often than not, the best course is to work with the right professional to help them live happier and more satisfying senior years.

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