Everyone has a bad day here or there and can be caused by a number of factors, but if those outbursts or "temper tantrums" are exhibited by your elderly parent, it can be a cause for concern.
As an adult, seeing our parents or other elderly loved ones, exhibit such behaviour can appear strange and alarming. At times, we forget that these emotional outbursts can be present in individuals no matter their age, however for some of us these situations can cause embarrassment or feelings of helplessness regarding how to handle our parent's outbursts.
Understanding the Why's
Assertive, aggressive, temper flaring outbursts in older adults can have a variety of causes. Oftentimes it is caused by personality changes due to the onset of Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Perhaps your loved one is on prescription medication that may cause side effects such as mood swings, irritability and other unpleasant or unusual behaviour.
As they age, parents may have greater concern, worry, and despair over their physical limitations, mobility challenges, and other reductions in their health status. These concerns may also cause sudden outbursts.
As older adults transition from the busy lives of raising children and working in their careers to retirement, failing health, memory lapses, and chronic pain their frustrations rise and coping strategies are often not known or available.
It's important to remember that, especially those with dementia, they often are not aware of their behaviours, the words they may say, or the effects those actions have on their family and friends. Do not take it personally. Focus on the positive, good moments and characteristics of your loved one. Knowing that you can also seek respite care as often as possible will allow you to take a break from being your mom or dad's primary caregiver. Use that time to focus on your own health and mental well-being.
Depending on the behaviour present in your loved one, setting boundaries or establishing firm rules may help to reduce the frequency or escalation of these outbursts. For behaviours that are not associated with those caused by dementia, do not fear being firm with your parent when establishing rules. These rules can be for when reducing inappropriate language (i.e. cursing) or touching others in an assertive or aggressive manner. Reminders that the behaviour, not the individual, is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
For those with dementia, the approach may be different. You may wish to use more redirection techniques, such as finding an activity they enjoy doing. This could be taking them on a walk, playing their favourite games, or starting a conversation about a pleasant and familiar memory they have.
It is also important to keep in mind that some of their innate character traits (even those that are inappropriate in nature) may also be amplified by their age and ailments.
Aging is part of life. Changes in personality, behaviour, likes and dislikes are par for the course. These changes are natural as health begins to decline, social circles diminish, and the need for more home-based or senior living centres arises. Allow yourself, and them, time to adjust.
Take the time to - Pause - Step Away - Breathe - Regain Composure. This technique is the best way to care for yourself and be there for them.
For more information on how Ideal Caregivers 4u can help with respite care, meal assistance, personal care, or companionship, visit our website today.
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