Growing up, our parents were the ones who protected us, molded us, and made sure we had everything we needed. Now, as they age, the roles slowly reverse, and it’s our turn to take care of them.
But, aging can sometimes come with challenging situations. Your loved one’s behavior or personality may change in their senior years, which can come from resentment of aging or may even be a warning sign of cognitive decline. Conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia can manifest in personality changes, affecting how people process the world and express their emotions. In some situations, this may lead your loved one to lash out or make seemingly irrational decisions, such as not eating.
To deal with seemingly irrational behavior from a senior parent, focus on listening, avoid arguing, and reach out for external help, such as respite care when needed. Empathy and patience are key in navigating these difficult times with loved ones.
What Is Dementia?
Dementia is a condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It’s characterized by memory loss and a decline in cognitive function, making day-to-day activities difficult for people who are suffering from this condition. If you have a parent with dementia, it can be an overwhelming experience for you and your family.
Dementia is not a disease but a collection of symptoms related to changes in the brain, which affect the mechanisms responsible for cognitive function.
The symptoms of dementia can include:
- Memory loss
- Behavioral changes
- Trouble communicating
- Mood swings
The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a progressive disease that worsens over time, and there is no known cure. Alzheimer’s disease primarily affects people 65 and older and accounts for between 60%–80% of dementia cases.
What Are the Signs of Dementia?
It’s important to seek a medical evaluation if you begin to suspect your loved one is showing signs of dementia. While dementia can’t be cured, early intervention could allow doctors to slow its progression, depending on the type. It also gives you more time to prepare a care plan with them.
Doctors have tests to evaluate signs of dementia and other cognitive decline. Simply being forgetful is not necessarily an indicator of dementia. It’s normal to have memory problems from time to time, especially as we age, but if your loved one’s memory concerns begin to affect their daily life, it may be a sign of a more serious condition.
Dealing with Irrational Loved Ones
Navigating the waters of dealing with irrational behavior in senior parents can be a real challenge. It takes patience and love, and you may feel frustrated at times.
If your loved one has dementia, it’s important to remember that cruel words are a symptom of their condition, not a reflection of their true feelings toward you.
Listen to Them
Your loved one may appear irrational, but understanding their reasoning can be the first step to helping them. Try to identify the root cause of their frustration. They could be upset that they can’t do all the things they once did when they were younger, feeling a loss of freedom.
Listen to their concerns, fears, and desires. Avoid interrupting them or correcting them. Sometimes, what they say may not make sense to you, but just the fact that you listen to them can make them feel validated. This can help calm them down and prevent further escalation.
In many situations, arguing with your senior parents may only make the situation worse. Your loved one is likely already frustrated, and constant fights can lead to further anger and resentment. Instead, try to find common ground. Focus on the things you both agree on and avoid sensitive topics.
If they insist on something impossible or irrational, try to redirect the conversation to something else rather than directly contradicting them. If your loved one has cognitive decline, speaking clearly and concisely using simple language—without appearing patronizing—can help them understand you better.
Set Clear Boundaries
Even if you’re the primary caretaker, it’s important to know your limits. It may feel a bit daunting to approach your parents in such a way, and you may even feel guilty. But when you set boundaries, you’re laying out the rules of the interaction. You’re letting your parent know what is and isn’t acceptable, which can give everyone involved a sense of stability and understanding.
One way to set boundaries but still make your parent feel loved and supported is by using a matter-of-fact approach. Explaining the reasons for the boundaries and showing empathy may make them more receptive. This approach can help you set boundaries without hurting your parent or making them feel unimportant.
Take Breaks if You Feel Overwhelmed
Caring for a loved one can be emotionally and physically exhausting. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, seek professional help. You may consider talking to a therapist or joining a support group. They can provide you with tools and techniques on how to cope with the situation.
If your loved one has a limited ability to care for themselves, you may have trouble taking a step back. Fortunately, respite care can help restore balance to your life, allowing you to recharge your batteries.
Short-term respite care allows you to leave your parent in the care of others, whether for a few hours or a couple of days. During this time, you can do things you enjoy or attend to other responsibilities that you’ve neglected. When you return to your caregiving role, you’ll be more refreshed and better able to handle the daily responsibilities of being a caregiver.
Embracing the Aging Journey
Taking care of senior parents with dementia can be challenging, especially when they behave in a way that seems irrational to you. But remember, they’re still your parents, and they need your love and support.Fox Trail Memory Care in Hillsdale can help you make this challenging situation more manageable. Our Moments Matter lifestyle is designed for the unique needs of our residents with cognitive decline. Whether you think it might be time for memory care or your family could benefit from respite care, our community is here to provide support. Call us or schedule a visit today to learn more.