Support, guidance & advice for todays primary carers
We are all aware of elder abuse and sadly it is becoming more prevalent in our society. However, there are a minority of elderly parents that can be a tad abusive. This can be towards their carers which is usually one of their children or even their spouse.
Like everyone, the elderly has their good and bad days, but there can be no doubt that the last 18 months have been particularly challenging for the elderly and their families, during this global pandemic. Mood swings stemming from frustration, lack of communication, poor health, stress, pain and lack of privacy or dignity can easily lead to your elderly loved one taking their frustrations out on those closest to them.
As we age our individual character traits can magnify. Someone that was short tempered may suffer full-on bouts of rage in their old age. Unfortunately, family members are often the target of these outbursts. Whilst there is no simple solution in dealing with this type of behaviour, we can offer some suggestions that may help.
Handling Anger Outbursts
Whilst it may seem obvious, it needs to be said, don’t take these negative behaviours and anger outbursts personally. Pain and stress can cause us to act in inappropriate ways, and in hindsight regret. It’s important to determine if anger and aggressive outbursts are indeed caused by their current situation or just something that they express to you. Knowing which it is will help you determine the strategy to take. To identify this, ask as many people as reasonable to call or visit your elderly. Then report back to you on how they found their behaviour. Knowing this will help you determine what response is appropriate.
Communication is key. Sometimes you have to continually reinforce the message because your elderly loved one is forgetful or struggles to process the information you share. If your parents seem increasingly frustrated, anxious or otherwise emotionally disturbed, it’s your responsibility to find out why and assist them to fix that. Try broaching the subject when they are in a pleasant mood and warming them to the conversation with alluding questions. This may take a couple of visits before you succeed or make any headway.
Whilst there is no simple solution in dealing with this type of behaviour, we can offer some suggestions that may help.
Cursing and Abusive Language
Verbal abusive and harsh language can be detrimental to all involved. Things can be said in the heat of the moment. If your loved one suffers from Dementia, profanities can be out of character and part of the effects of the disease. To mitigate excessive swearing and anger, try appealing to their character and your opinion of them. You could say things like. ‘I don’t remember you using such vulgar language. This is not the respectful person I remember admiring and looking up to’ . Or ‘You were never so disrespectful in front of people and especially your family’. If you need the big bat, try, ‘It so sad to see you reduce yourself from a person I respected, to a disrespectful vulgar person. You’re better than that’.
It can help to use visual imagery by reminding them of their forthright and respectable reputation held by those closest to them. Easier said than done, but worth trying!
5 TIPS THAT HELP TO REDUCE OUTBURSTS
1. CARROTS & STICKS 2. DEPRIVING OF YOUR COMPANY 3. DON’T BITE ME, WRITE ME 4. NEVER ATTACK BACK, SEPARATE THE PERSON FROM THE BEHAVIOURS A PERSON’S WHO IS NOT WHAT THEY DO 5. REINFORCE AND REWARD BALANCE AND PEACE
Physical and Emotional Abuse
Many elderlies are unaware that their behaviour is abusive and that makes a solution difficult. If you have tried communicating with a heart-to-heart conversation and that hasn’t worked, you need to look at having a short break from providing care. There are respite options at many homes. You could also look at consulting a professional family counsellor or outsourcing to professional in-home care for help and assistance.
Paranoia and Hallucinations
If your loved one is suffering from paranoia or hallucinations, then you need to seek help from a medical professional. They can help to diagnose any possible serious mental disorder. In the case where behaviour change started suddenly, check to see if it coincides with a change in their medication. On finding it does, talk to their doctor as their medication may need to be altered. If it has started mildly and gradually gotten worse over time, then it may be a symptom of Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. If this is the case, get them checked and diagnosed by their doctor asap.
Dealing with angry and emotional parents requires a lot of patience and empathy. Whilst difficult and frustrating, communication and persistence can go a long way. You will be able to achieve a much more stress-free, healthier, and happier environment for all.
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Carer Gateway is an Australian Government program providing free services and support for carers. Call Carer Gateway for support and access to services, Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm local time.
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