As a caregiver, you’ve probably experienced numerous instances of challenging behavior from your aging parent. These encounters can leave you feeling stressed, abused and exhausted.
If you are just beginning your caregiving responsibilities, you may feel overwhelmed and unable to cope. If you have been providing care for a while, you may have built up resentment or anger at being the target of your parent’s behavior. The following strategies will help you manage challenging behavior and be a more effective caregiver.
Although you cannot control your loved one’s behavior, you can control your reaction. The way you react is critical in reducing your stress level. So that you don’t aggravate the situation, follow these tips:
- Don’t argue.
- Don’t downplay or ignore your loved one’s feelings.
- Focus on the behavior, not the person.
- Distract your parent by changing the subject or redirecting Mom or Dad’s attention to something positive.
- Find something to agree on.
- Don’t ridicule or blame.
- Help your parent feel in control by letting them make decisions.
- Remember that Mom and Dad are adults; don’t patronize them or talk baby talk to them.
- If hygiene is an issue, rather than constantly nagging, break it down into small steps. Offer a choice of alternative times to bathe so that your parent feels he or she has some control.
In addition to controlling your response to aggressive behavior, other activities can help diffuse difficult situations:
- Music therapy
- Pet therapy
- Regular exercise
- Physical therapy
- Crafts, hobbies or other absorbing and stimulating activities
If these methods don’t work, you may want to consult your parent’s doctor to see if medication is an option. Be careful with this, though, as you don’t want to overmedicate your parent. Consider getting two opinions before opting for this route.
A resistant or demanding parent can make your job as the caregiver more difficult, but following these strategies will help you cope with your cranky parent and improve the situation. When all else fails, smile. It really is difficult to be frustrated or annoyed when you have a smile on your face.