It can be hard to provide care for an elderly parent. You may suffer from seeing them decline. it gets even harder if they complain a lot or become excessively negative. Dealing with negative elderly parents is stressful and challenging.
There can be a lot of reasons for this behavior. Especially if it is unusual, or has changed recently, there might be an underlying cause that could be fixed. If it is just an extension of the personality they always had, it may be harder, but there are some ways to cope and to help them feel better as well.
5 Potential Causes of Negativity in the Elderly
If they have become more negative recently, or if there is a general change in behavior, they may be crying for help. Here are some things to check that might help them feel better, and could result in less negativity.
1. Check Their Urinary Health
Urinary infections are relatively common for seniors, but how they show up is different. For seniors, such an infection can cause a mood swing, which would make them more combative and argumentative. If the complaining has come about suddenly, checking for a urinary infection could solve the issue.
2. Been to the Doctor and Changed Meds?
Changing medications can also have a huge effect on mood and general happiness. Sometimes, seniors take a lot of medicine and they may lose track of what the doctor has prescribed. In some cases, they may not even know the medication has changed.
It is especially true if they are seeing more than one doctor. Medications can interact and have undesirable effects, such as mood swings and feelings of discomfort. Interactions can cause issues with chemicals in the brain that can make them feel bad. If you are suddenly dealing with negative elderly parents, checking their medication could help solve the issue.
3. Pain Levels and Tolerance
Chronic pain can make anyone edgy or grouchy. Sometimes medications stop working or stop working as well, and pain can return. Check on the level of pain they are having, especially if this is a recurring issue they are having.
4. Are They Lonely and Cooped Up?
Sometimes people just get bored, and that makes them unhappy, so they complain a lot more. This would be especially true for a person who is used to being very active and around a lot of people, who is suddenly feeling trapped inside a house. Complaining could even become a hobby and they might focus more on negative things than they would otherwise.
5. Is There Any Sign of Mental Decline?
A fifth reason could be mental decline as they get older. If they realize it is happening, it can make the aging process even more stressful, which would contribute to a rise in negativity. Dementia or Alzheimers are possibilities, and that can be checked if you have a concern. It could also be the normal aging process, depending on the age of the person.
Five Ways of dealing with negative elderly parents
It is stressful enough to take care of elderly parents, and it gets even worse when you are dealing with negative elderly parents. Here are some tips that may help. Try them all and maybe come up with some of your own.
1. Find the cause
Especially if it is a new development or unusual, there might be something causing them a problem. Fixing that problem could fix the negativity, and they would appreciate feeling better as well. It may be as simple as talking with them and asking questions, but as noted above, you may have to check out some things and probe further to find the cause.
The negativity may be caused by depression. Depression can cause many severe problems, including physical ones that are well documented.
Allowing them to express their feelings could help, just be careful that you do not get pulled into feeling bad as well.
2. Organize visits and encourage friendships
Boredom is a real possibility. They may be slower and not as energetic, but all people need interesting things to keep them going. It is easy to become reclusive as well, so it is a good idea to encourage friendships. Keeping people socialized can be a great thing for them and for you as well. It could give you a break now and then, and it could improve your mood.
Bonus: Encourage them to explain how they feel, but do not force the issue too much. You may not want to hear some of the things they have to say. If you feel that is going on too long, just let them know it hurts you.
3. Help them find and pursue interests
Socializing is just part of the picture. People need to feel that what they are doing matters, and they need interesting things to do. Some elderly people say they have no hobbies, but maybe you can find something that would interest them. Encourage them to try new things.
Physical exercise is also related and could become a new interest. Exercise releases positive feel-good chemicals into the brain and will help them feel better overall. The point is to help them find things they are interested in, and that they can do for themselves.
4. Try not to react to negativity from your elderly parents
It can be difficult not to respond in like manner when your elderly parents start complaining and fussing about things. This will solve nothing and will make the problem worse. Leave the room if you have to. Take some deep breaths. Try to be cheerful, but if that is too hard, try to be matter-of-fact in your tone and avoid showing emotion.
Don’t talk down to your parents as though they were children. Remember to treat them as adults always, even if their behavior is not what it should be. Often, a calm voice will calm others down when situations are getting out of control.
From your end, even if you have been taking care of them for a long time, unfortunately loved ones may always think you are wrong. Some people just have a way of doing that, even if it is not warranted. The best you can do is minimize conflict and try to choose your battles. As always, staying positive and not getting dragged into negativity is a good thing.
5. Recognize the Need for Help
Taking care of elderly parents is a tough job. When they are being negative and complaining, it is even harder. Counseling can help, and there are support groups you can talk to. At some point, you may have to decide you cannot bear the load and they may have to look into other arrangements. The point is to recognize your own limitations. It is important to get breaks now and then. Perhaps another family member could help you. There are several organizations that also offer help.
Sometimes you may have to enforce consequences or take away something that they enjoy. It is no fun, but sometimes it is the only way to keep them from being negative.
Just remember, most of the time it is not your fault. It is also not a reflection on you.