Is Your Parent Being Difficult?

Have you ever been in a restaurant and your parent suddenly throws a temper tantrum? Does Mom or Dad always complain about everything you do? Has your loved one suddenly become apathetic about hygiene?

If so, you are not alone. Caregivers face these and other situations every day when caring for an aging parent. Because you put a tremendous amount of effort into giving your parent the care he or she needs, it can be very frustrating and hurtful when Mom or Dad becomes uncooperative or begins swearing at you. Here are some things to keep in mind that will help you protect your emotional and mental well-being when dealing with a difficult parent.

Identify the Source
Determining the cause of Mom or Dad’s behavior is the first step to knowing how to handle it. Obstructive behavior can stem from many sources:

  • Stroke, Alzheimer’s or dementia
  • Pain, urinary tract infection or other medical conditions
  • Depression
  • Medication interaction
  • Magnification of personality traits due to aging
  • Insecurity or loss of control

It might be helpful to keep a log of what triggers an outburst. You might find that outbursts come in the afternoon when your loved one is tired or each time you clean Mom’s bedroom. Once you figure out the likely cause of your parent’s behavior, you can take steps to treat the underlying problem and prevent certain situations from occurring.

It’s Not Really About You
Although your parent may take his or her anger out on you, it isn’t about you. It involves your parent’s fears, emotions, unmet needs, a physical problem or cognitive issues that he or she cannot express in other ways. Recognize that your loved one might not be able to control the behavior, especially if it’s the result of a stroke or some form of dementia.

The struggle to cope with your loved one’s difficult behavior may be the most challenging part of being a caregiver. In our next blog, we’ll look at some tips that will help you alleviate and manage your parent’s uncooperative behavior so that you can reduce your stress and be a more loving caregiver.

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