How to Help Your Elderly Parent Through Anger—the Second Stage of Aging
October 27, 2016
Senior Care in Redwood City CA
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a Swedish psychiatrist made famous by her research with terminally ill patients, suggested that there are five emotional stages many people progress through: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These stages are now considered part of the aging process as well. Some aging parents will exhibit all five stages, while others will progress through only a few and in no particular order. This article addresses anger—the second stage.Anger“I’m healthy as a horse. I eat seven fruits and vegetables daily, never smoked, drink a few beers a week, take my vitamins and exercise regularly,” your parent testifies. And then a serious illness or injury strikes and the aging parent feels cheated. “I did everything right. Why me?” Doors slam and a scowl replaces the once effervescent smile. And the anger, while having nothing to do with their children, is often directed at those closest to them.How to Handle Misdirected AngerLike water off a ducks back—an age-old phrase which means: don’t take it personally. Don’t let it seep into your craw where it will fester and build into resentment. This may be harder said than done, particularly for family caregivers who spend the most time with their aging parent. When confronted with misdirected anger, consider the three C’s as possible approaches: circumvent, change the subject, and cut to the chase.CircumventYou’ve known your parent for some time now. And while time has transformed both of you, you still are well-aware of each other’s buttons. By circumventing specific issues until the time is right—possibly when sitting together and having a heart-to-heart talk or a get-together with the whole family—you can dramatically reduce any escalating tension.Change the SubjectYour parent is angry because you suggested he consider taking a shower more frequently. He suggested you mind your own business. What he really feels is embarrassment that he can’t seem to do the everyday chores of living. Changing the subject to something he can be proud of like, “You look great in that yellow shirt,” or “ I noticed the flowers out front are beautiful,” can do wonders to take the heat off. This is also the time to consider obtaining the services of a senior care provider to help with the daily activities of life. Not only will they help with bathing, dressing, light housekeeping and meal preparation, senior care providers can be a third-party sounding board. This gives the parent space to vent without affecting family relationships.Cut to the ChaseAnger is hurt in disguise. Listen. Under the ranting, the true issue can usually be distinguished. Dealing with the core issues is like stitching up a wound instead of just applying a Band-Aid, resulting in resolution instead of resentment.This too Shall PassKnowing that anger can ultimately lead to acceptance helps children of aging parents look upon their parent’s behavior in a new light. The key to getting through this phase is knowing that this too shall pass.