When it comes to our parents we love them for who they are and what they have done for us over the years, however, with aging parents and adult children there is sometimes friction as the ‘power balance’ that used to be there has now shifted.
Children aren’t children anymore and they have their own thoughts, feelings, and lives that they need to lead.
So if you have noticed that recently your elderly parent, or parents, are behaving irrationally with you or seeming to pick an argument with you whenever you speak to them, now is the time to find out why they may be going through these behavioral changes and what you can do to support your aging parent.
Why Would Your Parents Display Irrational Behavior?
There are quite a few reasons why your parents may be acting the way they are, but, here are some of the most common reasons why you are seeing irrational behaviors in them.
- Mental illness due to declining neuro health.
- Going through the onset of dementia.
- Their self-awareness is declining and they feel vulnerable to the outside world.
- Upset that they are having to rely on their children.
- Angry at getting older and not being able to do what they used to.
- Fear of the changing world and how they may not be able to catch up.
If you think that your parents are going through one or a few of these, it is important that you see how you can best help them in a way that doesn’t make them feel like you are taking over their lives.
Stubborn aging parents can be very normal, as changes in life stages will bring about mixed feelings at any age, but when it gets to later on in life, people are more aware of what could happen to them from mental health issues to cognitive decline.
This is why, with irrational elderly parents, dealing with them needs to be handled carefully and with consideration and respect.
They may be going through the aging process, but so will you one day and you wouldn’t want to feel like you were being taken over by your family.
How to Deal With Irrational Elderly Parents
Once you are aware of why your elderly parents are acting the way that they are, you need to make sure that you are going through the right process of helping them.
Older adults will push back a bit more when they are offered help, especially if it is done in a way that illudes to them not being capable of dealing with simple tasks.
If you are their primary caregiver and you need some assistance in approaching them properly, keep reading to find out what you can do.
Identify The Exact Cause
Looking at the small list above, is there anything that jumps out at you?
Maybe they have recently said how frustrated they are when trying to remember things from the past, or maybe one elderly parent refuses to listen to you explaining how to do things as they “don’t need a lesson”.
Once you have found out the reasons why and have it confirmed either by other family members or with medical assistance, you can start to work with that.
Aging Brings a Lot of Anxiety
Going through the aging process can cause elderly parents to feel stressed, anxious, and depressed due to the fact that they don’t feel connected with who they used to be anymore.
This can cause them to lash out in fear that turns into anger.
Irrational parents are not being irrational to annoy you, they are just finding it hard to deal with what they are going through and since you are the closest to them they will lash out at you.
Seek Professional Help
Family caregivers can experience a lot of stress themselves when dealing with irrational elderly parents, you cannot take everything on yourself, you need to have professional help in your corner.
Seeking the help of doctors and therapists who can help you support your parents in a proactive way that gives them a better lease on life and frees you up to help in other areas is important.
It is the correct course of action when dealing with a parent who has cognitive impairment.
Connect Them With a Local Support Group
You will be aware that they are not the only irrational person/people who are going through this change in their lives.
Many seniors will go through this whilst dealing with mental illnesses as well, so you can find support groups that can aid them in getting the support they need, helping both you and them in the long run.
Always Treat Them as Equals
There is evidently a power shift in your relationship with your parents and they are very much aware of that, so before you start telling them what you need them to do as well as who they are seeing and where they need to go, it is very important you speak to them as equals.
Don’t talk down to them or try and overtake what they are doing, instead, ask them what they would like to do and if there is any way that you can contribute or make it easier for them.
They are still adults and they did raise you, they taught you how to eat with a spoon and walk, the least you can do is make them feel like they are not a burden and you want to work with them, not against them.
Try and Stay Calm
Hopefully, your parents do not show abusive behavior or experience too many temper tantrums when you are trying to deal with them.
But, when they have something like Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia, then they will act out in different ways and show difficult behavior because they are living in fear and will sometimes forget what they are doing.
Always remain calm when talking and dealing with them in such a way that won’t rile them up.
Sometimes you may need to call in another family member to help you deal with them at points, like giving them a bath, shopping with them, or feeding them.
This can lighten the load and help you figure out what else to do.
You may also need outside support to come in on days you are working, so when you are explaining to them what is going on, keep calm and go through it with them bit by bit.
Accept What is Happening to Your Parents
It is not easy to see your parents in a different light, especially as you have known them a certain way for many years and it can be quite a shock to see such a rapid and progressive change in their mental state.
Understand that this is going to happen to many elderly people and it is tough but it is a fact of life, and as long as you know what to look out for and you gather as much information as possible from professionals then you will be able to help them in any way they need you.
Take this as a lesson and hopefully, it will give you more compassion for other people who are going through the same thing.
Don’t Neglect Your Needs
You will experience your own stress and anxiety with it, so seek professional help for yourself as well, because it is crucial that you also focus on your well-being and are able to keep going throughout the day as you also have your own life to lead.
Spend Time With Them as Much as Possible
You are busy, you may have a family of your own or a full-time job that takes up most of your week, but, when you have some time free it is good to spend time with them and just be in their presence so that they know you are there and you stay connected with your parents.
Create a Schedule
Try and plan a dinner each week with them or go for walks at the weekend, also look at taking them shopping and just spending time with them when they need someone to talk to.
This can make them feel good and it can give them that validation they need.
Talk to Them About How You Can Help Them
Parents have a lot of pride and they may not ask you for help outright, so it is essential that you are the one who takes that first step to ask them if they need anything or what you can do to lighten their load.
Show that you are doing it from a place of love not duty as parents will pick up on that right away and it may put them off asking you for any help in the future.
Respect Their Boundaries
Even with the help they require, they still have boundaries and you will need to respect that and understand that they are still your parents, so don’t step over them because you think you should be able to, now that they rely a bit more on you.
Talk to Them About Boundaries
Establish what boundaries they have and stick to them to make sure that you do not cross over the line and act out in ways that can be harmful to your relationship.
Knowing how to deal with irrational elderly parents can be difficult if this is the first time you have ever dealt with anyone whose emotional and physical health has changed.
You can only do the best you can with the tools you have, so if you need to ask for outside support then do so as this will not only help you with your parents but it can help them with getting the right amount of targeted and essential care.
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