Some people complain a lot; in some cases, that's just their nature. However, if you're caring for a senior who has started to complain more, there may be a reason for the change in disposition. In addressing the underlying issue, therefore, caregivers can help aging loved ones enjoy a more positive outlook and feel better, too. Read on for a roundup of five common causes of senior negativity, along with tips for caregivers coping with caring for an impossible-to-please senior.
If your aging loved one has always been a complainer, then there’s no reason to expect that he/she would suddenly reverse this outlook. However, for aging loved ones with milder dispositions, crankiness may actually indicate the presence of an infection, such as a UTI. In fact, while most people think of pain, burning and the urge to urinate as the primary symptoms of UTIs, irritability and other behavioral symptoms may also occur.
Did you know that the cholesterol-lowering statins may be linked with irritability and aggression? While these behaviors don’t appear on the standard list of statin side effects, University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine researcher and professor Beatrice Golomb, MD, Ph.D., believes that “a compelling case can be made for a connection” between these meds and mood changes. Both anxiety drugs and sleeping pills may lead to anger—especially for people who may already be inclined toward having aggressive personalities.
From Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and diabetes to hypothyroidism, Wilson’s disease and epilepsy, a number of medical conditions are associated with irritability, anger, and despair—each of which can lead to an uptick in complaining. A checkup with your aging loved one’s physician can help determine if a medical issue may be to blame.
4. Chronic Pain
Many older people suffer from chronic pain. Explains psychotherapist Anita Gadhia-Smith, “People living with chronic pain are uncomfortable all the time.” Factor in that opioid painkillers are also tied to irritability as a side effect, and the issue can escalate. "That further isolates the person who's in chronic pain, and it's very difficult for them," continues Gadhia-Smith.
During earlier stages of life, people find themselves busy with jobs, kids, and friends. As we age, these responsibilities can lessen—especially when boredom sets in. Caregivers can help seniors overcome boredom and the negative emotions which often accompany it, by encouraging them to pick up a new hobby or pastime. In becoming engaged in something new while rediscovering a sense of purpose, seniors can regain a sense of fulfillment.
Coping with Complaining
Attempting to determine whether crankiness results from a cause is an important step in mitigating the complaints while simultaneously helping seniors feel better. Checking in with your aging loved one's healthcare team can yield invaluable insights.
However, what can you do when there’s not a medical cause? Empathy is essential. Growing old and losing independence isn’t easy; the more caregivers understand the situation and the natural feelings that go with it, the better they can support their loved ones.
That said, dealing with an irritable loved one can be overwhelming. Therapy offers a safe outlet through which caregivers can talk through their feelings and frustrations. Additionally, asking for help from others and/or taking advantage of respite care can provide critical relief.
mmLearn.org offers a large library of free videos for caregivers of older adults, covering topics pertaining to senior care, including on taking care of hateful patients. Whether you are a healthcare professional or a family caregiver, if you are caring for an older adult we know that you will find mmLearn.org an essential learning and guidance tool for all of your caregiver training needs. Access our database of free online caregiver video library today for more online training for caregivers resources.