It may be hard to care for an elderly family member to begin with, but it becomes much more difficult if they complain constantly or are bossy. It can be highly frustrating anytime your loved one ridicule you but especially when you are trying to help them. The senior’s behavior may lead to feelings of frustration, anger and bitterness, which often prolongs the negative cycle.
If your family member already had a negative outlook on life, the mental and physical frustrations that go along with aging are likely to intensify a negative personality. It may be the only way they can communicate their feelings, and it is best not to take their negative comments to heart. However, there are quite a few other reasons why a senior can be bossy or complain more, such as medication side effects, infections, pain, or the elder may be developing dementia.
In some instances like infection, pain, or dementia, medical attention will be needed. More often than not the complaining senior will become much more pleasant after some medication changes are made or an infection is cleared up. If the elderly family member is developing dementia or another mental illness, there are now medications that may help prevent the worst personality changes for months or, sometimes, even years. Anti-anxiety medications and, for certain people anti-psychotics, can make a difference, as well. All options should be explored.
If your loved one just complains because it is a part of their personality, do not lose hope, there are many things you can do to ease the tension. You should always use good listening skills when speaking to an elder, so they know that you care about their feelings. Here are some tips that will help you be a good listener:
- Always make direct eye contact, unless it is forbidden by cultural boundaries or religions.
- Reduce distractions during the conversation. Distractions could be music, people talking, or the TV.
- Listen to them carefully and verify that you understand them. Repeat what they said in the form of a question or ask them to repeat themselves. You probably will find it more effective to repeat their exact words than to paraphrase.
- Notice non-verbal communication. Watch for clues that may indicate that they are becoming aggressive or upset.
- Acknowledge their feelings. If you are weary of caring for them, they are probably just as weary of needing the care.
Just like you need to use good listening skills, it is also beneficial to use good speaking skills when communicating. Here are tips to be more effective when communicating:
- Make direct eye contact, unless forbidden by cultural boundaries or religions. This is a valuable tip if you are listening or talking. It shows the senior that you care about the conversation.
- Before beginning a conversation get to their eye level. For example, if they are sitting in a chair, sit beside them.
- Encourage them to use glasses, hearing aids, and communication boards when needed.
- Ensure that your non-verbal signals are saying that you are paying attention and are interested in the conversation. Always, maintain an open body posture, and avoid placing your hands on your hips or crossing your arms.
- Use words they will understand.
- Be honest.
- Never make promises that you cannot keep. This will frustrate the senior even more.
- Prepare them in advance if you have something else to do on that day and if your time is limited.
- Do not argue with them.
- Give encouraging feedback when the elder is not complaining or demanding.
If communicating does not prove to be an effective way to ease their complaints, try to confront the complaints head on. Here are some guidelines you should consider:
- Ask the senior to keep a journal of the complaints and address the appropriate/reasonable/valid ones.
- Offer alternatives and let them make choices regarding their care. Seniors have the right to refuse care if they are competent to make their own decisions.
- Ask for suggestions pertaining to their care or living situations.
- Look for an underlying cause to baseless complaints and attempt to correct the cause if possible.
- Remain neutral if they are complaining about someone else. Suggest that they talk to that person directly in order to try and solve their issues.
- Offer to set up help for them, such as counseling or therapy. Chronic complaining and agitation can be a symptom of depression or other psychological issues.
Providing care for a sick or elderly family member can be emotionally and physically challenging. Family caregivers’ stress can be increased if the person needing help has a tendency to constantly complain or be bossy. It is essential to remember that sometimes it is not the senior’s fault that they complain, medication side effects and other underlying causes can change their personality. Seek the advice of a health professional. If the complaining is not from a hidden medical condition you should try to cope with their changed personality and think about looking into hiring homecare services. Experienced caregivers can help you, and your elderly family member manages the complaints and take quite a bit of stress off your shoulders.