7 Reasons Why Your Loved Senior is Irritable


The notion of the angry or sulking senior is widespread. Some who lash out at their family and caregivers may have lashed out even in their younger days. Their conduct may just be an intensification of their already difficult, stubborn behavior.

However, sometimes seniors suddenly exhibit irritability and anger, apparently out of nowhere. Your previously patient and jolly senior suddenly becomes unreasonable or sulky. Why? There are several reasons why this may happen.

They are in pain

It’s difficult to be patient with noisy children, for instance, if you’re in pain and discomfort. Some seniors have to take an endless array of medicines to function. And even then, they’re still in pain and discomfort. They feel helpless and this makes them irritable.

It’s even worse for non-verbal seniors. In addition to the physical pain and discomfort they are suffering, they are also frustrated by their inability to verbalize their wishes. As a caregiver, you need to be specially tuned to, and responsive to the needs of non-verbal seniors. Make sure they are resting comfortably and their clothes or other gadgets are not pinching them.

If it gets to a point where you cannot cope with caring for your senior loved one, it would be a good idea to hire a trained caregiver. Again, depending on the level of care your loved one needs, you might consider moving them into an assisted living home where they can get 24-hour care.

They may be suffering from dementia 

Dementia affects the brain and can change a person’s personality. If you notice uncharacteristic behavior in your loved aging one, it might be brought about by dementia. Confusion, anger, and agitation are some of the emotions people with dementia exhibit. A person who has been calm and reasonable all their life may suddenly lash out and use uncharacteristic harsh language.

As a caregiver, stay calm. Remember that this behavior is not intentional. Don’t argue with them and do your best to deal with the trigger. Redirect the senior to another task and deflect attention from what is causing irritation.

Make sure the senior is not in pain or physical discomfort. Take comfort in the knowledge that this behavior will not last forever. It will change as the brain changes.

They are undergoing hormonal changes

This is something seniors share with teenagers, especially men. As men grow older, their testosterone levels go down, leading to reduced virility and physical strength. This may make some men feel less manly and can easily make them grumpy. Some may lash out in frustration. Add to that the physical signs of aging like weight gain and erectile dysfunction and you end up with an exasperated, angry man.

They are frustrated by their dependence

Elderly people who have been independent all their lives are frustrated when they have to depend on others for everything. Seniors who have worked all their lives may feel helpless as they, for instance, watch their adult children or employees mismanage and run down businesses they have built over a lifetime. And there’s little they can do. No wonder they lash out.

Other seniors may be unhappy with the direction their lives have taken. They may be dissatisfied with their accomplishments and may feel their lives have been wasted. These feelings may make them moody and bitter with the world.

They are unable to communicate effectively

Communication difficulties creep up gradually on the elderly. It starts with forgetting names, even of people they know well, the inability to find the right words to express themselves, the inability to reason logically, and eventually, your senior loved one may lose their ability to speak. This may come with gradual loss of hearing as well.

Be patient as your loved one takes their time to express themselves. If you lower ambient noise levels in the home, then your senior loved one, who may be hard of hearing, will not find it necessary to raise their voice. You can also use visual aids to help seniors express themselves.

They long for their dearly departed

Your elderly parent will most likely have lost a loved one along the way. It might be their spouse, a dear friend, siblings, or even a child. At a time when the elderly may spend a lot of time alone with their thoughts, they have time to reflect on their lives. They may grieve over aspects of their lives or things they may have done or not done. That grief may translate into resentment and spill over as rage.

They hate being in a retirement home         

If you notice that your aging parent living in a retirement home is always in a bad mood, then perhaps they are unhappy living there. They may be missing their home and the freedom that comes with living in their own space. In a retirement home, mealtimes are regulated and life there is devoid of the spontaneity of home life. They miss you and their grandchildren and perhaps feel abandoned in a retirement home.

Before you put your loved senior one in a retirement home, explain to them why you feel this is the best option. Perhaps they need the specialized care that you cannot offer them at home. Listen to any complaints your loved one may have concerning the retirement home, because things are not always what they seem on the surface.

Final thoughts

Not all seniors grow to become irritable and grumpy. Some retain their pleasant disposition to the end. However, if your loved elderly one becomes irritable and unreasonable, remember it’s not intentional. They are not doing it to hurt you. Do your best to defuse the situation, and if need be, look for professional help.

Don’t bear the burden alone. Talk to other caregivers. Join a caregiver support group and share the challenges you’re facing. Learn coping strategies from other caregivers.







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