Elderly Parents Behavior - Dealing with Anxiety

Elderly Parents Behavior - Dealing with Anxiety

Elderly Parents anxiety and fear can cause a multitude of issues, including illness, emotional outbursts and undesirable behaviors.

In many cases, caregivers feel startled, embarrassed or frustrated by such behavior, and are uncertain how to deal with such episodes. First, it's important to understand what behavior issues are, and then to identify their cause. Remember – in most elderly individuals, behaviors are a symptom of distress. Such behaviors are not personality flaws or stubbornness. They are merely expressions of anxiety.

Elderly Parents suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's are especially prone to behaviors that may be disruptive in social environments. Be careful to avoid over- stimulating or exciting an individual diagnosed with dementia, while at the same time offering activities that help to keep them happy, engaged and part of a social group.

Understanding "Behaviors"

Behavioral problems can be frustrating and troublesome to deal with, but they rarely involve physical harm to either the elderly parents or their caregivers. Most can be managed by a change in environment for the individual. In a way, caregivers must be able to "detect" what types of situations will cause such extreme anxiety in a parent that behaviors such as crying, yelling, cursing or other behaviors erupt.

Your ultimate goal as a caregiver is not to control the behavior, but to understand it, determine its cause, and take steps to avoid them in the future. In such situations, knowing what causes behavior problems is half the battle in solving them.

Elderly Anxiety

Some of the most common types of behavior problems include:

  • Wandering – pacing, inability to sit still, constant movement
  • Aggression – yelling out, cursing, hitting and biting
  • Depression – crying, silence, disinterest in activities
  • Hallucinations – seeing things or talking to people who aren't there
  • Delusions – a belief that someone means to do them harm or are stealing from them, etc.

Such behaviors may be caused by:

  • Too much noise – over stimulation
  • Lack of sleep
  • Too many directions or instructions at once
  • Pain or discomfort
  • A need for space
  • A certain person or situation

Identifying Triggers

Triggers are events or situations that tend to set off behaviors in many elderly parents. Such triggers may seem mild and inconsequential to you, but not to your parent.

Suddenly being thrust into new environments or around new people is likely to set off such behaviors. So is breaking a normal daily routine.

Caregivers must always take into consideration how unnerving and frightening it must be to suffer from dementia, Alzheimer's or other medical conditions that leave one reliant on someone else.

If your parent does not like to be touched when he or she is agitated, then just speak softly and calmly to them. Never, ever raise your voice – which will only add to his or her frustration and may accelerate the behavior to more difficult to manage levels.

Solutions for Anxiety Issues

Understanding what triggers such anxious moments or attacks on the part of elderly parents will help caregivers find solutions to these issues. When it comes to the most common and simple solutions, start with these:

  • Speak to your parent in a calm, soothing tone
  • Approach your parent slowly and calmly
  • Redirect your parent to another area or activity
  • Walk away and try approaching in a few minutes

After you have calmed your elderly parent down, try to determine the cause of the outburst. Start monitoring your parent's sleeping habits or look for patterns that may indicate that certain things are bothering him or her. It can be something as simple as a chime going off every hour to a feeling of insecurity caused by a busy environment.

Offer your parent consistent support and reassurance when he or she displays behaviors. The worst thing you can do is raise your voice or scold him or her. Caregivers must always remember to focus on the parent, and not on the task he or she is supposed to be - or not supposed to be - doing. For example, if you want to give your Mom a bath, and she refuses, don't press the issue. You're only going to get into an argument that neither of you will win.

The bath can always wait another day. It's not worth getting your parent upset and triggering an escalation of behaviors that leave everyone tense, angry and frustrated.

Remember that the environment causes nearly 90% of behavior issues. Understanding what causes a behavior is the first step toward finding an acceptable solution to deal with it. Behaviors are not a natural part of the aging process, but have a reason for their existence. It is up to caregivers to try to determine their cause and eradicate triggers – for your sake and the sake of your parent.

Talking with Mom and Dad


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