Personality Changes and Aging, Who Is This Person?
Personality changes can give caregivers a headache.
All human interactions have ebbs and flows. It’s the nature of relationships. At some point your elder will become someone you don’t recognize. Your sweet mother turns mean, fretful, or even abusive. Your easygoing dad becomes combative and angry. Maybe your parent was never easy to live with and it just gets worse or they turn mild and passive.
Why does this happen? Personality changes are triggered by dementia in its many forms, medications, pain, loss, and life changes . The elderly are at high risk for depression, anxiety disorders, hoarding behaviors or other mental health issues.
When I notice sudden changes, we start with a doctor visit. Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance cause behavior changes. Confusion can signal a urinary tract infection. Caught early, these are usually a quick fix.
Medication may help. Sometimes we need to talk to uncover the real issue. Talking to someone other than me (their daughter) helps. The G’s (my parents) tell our paid caregiver or my husband things they can’t tell me. It’s a different relationship, without the history and emotional triggers of mother/daughter, father/daughter bonds.
Sometimes we need to take a deep breath, step back and gain perspective. We have kids who are mental health professionals. When they visit, they take time to listen to The G’s. They are a neutral party. They are Switzerland. I learn from observing their interactions with Mom and Dad. Our other kids are tender-hearted, good and respectful listeners—also Switzerland. Their visits are balm for my parent’s hearts. A great-grandchildren visit is like a pep pill!
When things get tense, I need a nap, walk, swim or alone time. Music is calming to my mom. Talking about her childhood brings a smile. My dad needs to know he still has worth without his job. Talking about his working years and mental pursuits relax him. My husband and Dad are engineers. If my husband asks Dad what he remembers about a turbine generator in Back-Side-of-Nowhere, USA, Dad feels valued for his knowledge.
In eight years we have reached an emotional equilibrium. There are always new challenges. My mom’s frequent TIA’s come with new personality changes. We adjust, find a new balance.
We can’t fix aging. We can learn better ways to respond. I know it still hurts. Believe me, fellow caregivers, you have my respect and empathy. I know there are days you feel like you are giving everything you have to give and somehow it’s not enough.
I recommend the book, Coping With Your Difficult Older Parent. goo.gl/YFXczP
I found it helpful. I even thought, “Hey! These parents are way worse than mine,” and felt better. I’m currently reading Elder Rage, Take My Father…Please. I’ll let you know when I’m finished.
What works for you when your elder’s behavior spirals out of control?
Have a good caregiving day.