Caretakers often struggle with senior parents who can be set in their ways and irrational at times. Whether you’re constantly bickering over the smallest details, agreeing to disagree on certain issues, or simply not seeing eye-to-eye, there may come a point where you feel like your relationship has become strained. But it doesn’t have to be that way–understanding why seniors behave the way they do and implementing simple adjustments can help alleviate tension and make for more meaningful interactions between parents and children of all ages. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when dealing with irrational senior parents.
Why Seniors can Become Irrational
As we age, our health and the ability to remain independent can present challenges. During this time of life, seniors often feel vulnerable with their own mortality in sight and may experience a sense of loss due to friends or spouses passing away first. Caregivers should be mindful that seemingly irrational behaviors are likely rooted in fear surrounding aging processes such as physical pain associated with illnesses or declining independence.
Elderly individuals may also manifest irrational behavior due to a physical or medical condition. Dementia, mental illnesses, and age-related health issues can all be contributing factors. Caregivers should consult with their parent’s healthcare provider for more information about the underlying cause in order to manage it most effectively and ensure proper care is provided in the home. Understanding symptoms early on and gaining trust are key steps towards managing changes that come along as one ages over time—both cognitively, mentally, and physically.
How to Deal with Irrational Senior Parents
Providing companion care for an irrational senior parent is never an easy task, but following some standard guidelines will help you to manage the situation in a healthy way. Some things to keep in mind include:
1. Be understanding
It is important to approach your parent with understanding and compassion, instead of getting angry or frustrated when they act out. Understand that their behavior may be a result of loneliness, depression, illness, or dementia. Try not to take anything personally and remember that it is not their fault.
2. Listen actively
Try to understand your parents’ perspective and validate their feelings, even if you don’t agree with them. Listening actively can help defuse a tense situation and show that you care. Offering simple words like “I understand” or “I see” can also go a long way in helping them feel heard and appreciated.
3. Communicate clearly
When communicating with senior parents, it’s important to do so in a professional and respectful manner. Speak clearly and use language that is succinct, avoiding any comments or terms that have a blaming or shaming tone. It’s essential to remain patient and understanding of their needs, making sure that you are providing them with the appropriate information without overwhelming them.
4. Set boundaries
Be clear about what you can and cannot do, and set realistic boundaries for what you are willing to do for your parents. This can help prevent unrealistic expectations and reduce tension.
5. Seek support
Don’t try to handle everything on your own. It can be helpful to speak with people who are going through similar experiences as you—whether online or in person—in order to gain insight into how best to deal with your situation. You may even find support groups specifically designed for caregivers of senior citizens who behave irrationally due to age-related issues such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
6. Encourage independence
Encourage your senior parents to maintain their independence as much as possible. This can help them feel empowered and reduce feelings of frustration or helplessness.
7. Look for common ground
Try to find common ground with your senior parents and focus on areas of agreement. This can help build a positive relationship and reduce conflict.
8. Be patient
Dealing with irrational senior parents can be frustrating but try to be patient and understanding. Remember that your parents may be dealing with physical or mental health issues that are affecting their behavior.
9. Practice self-care
Take care of yourself and prioritize your own mental and emotional health. This can help you stay calm and focused when dealing with challenging situations.
Caring for a senior parent who acts out can be difficult, but try not to take their behavior personally. As hard as this experience may be, it is important to approach your parents with patience and understanding—show them respect, listen calmly, and keep communication open by making connections with other people who are dealing with similar issues. Above all else, take care of yourself; do not allow their emotions and words to have a drastic impact on your mental health.
Remember that age-related changes in the brain often contribute greatly to irrational behavior, so try your best not to react harshly but rather respond thoughtfully and compassionately whenever possible. With patience, understanding, and love you will be better equipped to deal with any situation that arises when providing senior care for your parent.