How to Handle an Elderly Loved One’s Difficult Behavior (Part 2)

Caring for an elderly loved one can be incredibly rewarding, but if your loved one has begun to exhibit a few bad behaviors, your job may become tedious and exhausting. Part one of this series discussed four bad behaviors that are common in elderly individuals. This section will discuss a few more of the most common bad behaviors and give you tips on how to deal with them.

Paranoia and Hallucinations

Paranoia and hallucinations may take many forms in the elderly populations. Your loved one may accuse a family member of stealing money or goods from their home, or believe that someone is out to get them and become overly frightened. If your loved one suffers from paranoia or hallucinations then your first step is to write down a small summary of each paranoid period or hallucination. Keep track of the time of day it occurred, how long the situation lasted, and what your loved one hallucinated or was paranoid about. Talk with their doctor about their episodes to see if their episodes may be a sign of a larger health issue or a side effect of a medication they may be taking. If your loved one has already been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or with dementia, then they may experience paranoid episodes or hallucinations often. If this is the case, then the best thing to do is relax and go with the flow. Trying to talk your loved one out of their delusion often is not successful, but if you go along with their delusion then you may be able to correct or fix the problem they are hallucinating about and snap them out of their delusion. For example, if your loved one is hallucinating that someone is breaking into their home, then you can go along with the delusion, but act like you are calling the police or getting the pretend intruder off of the property. Once your loved one feels like the intruder is gone, they may snap out of their delusion. Validation is also a good coping technique for your loved ones. Having delusions may upset your loved one, but if you validate what they see, then it can keep them calm and relaxed as they work through the delusion.

Strange Obsessions

Saving tissues, worrying about nonsensical things, picking at their skin or clothes, or any other type of obsessive behaviors can greatly disrupt the daily life of your elderly loved one. These obsessions may be harmless, but they may also be related to an addictive personality. If your loved one has had an addictive personality in the past, or has even suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder, then their issues may be manifesting themselves in strange obsessive behavior in their twilight years. To help them, do not berate your loved one for their behaviors. These obsessive behaviors are not a character flaw, and are actually a symptom of a larger issue. Secondly, start to observe your loved one whenever they begin and end their behaviors. Often there are triggers that will set your loved one off and cause them to start their behaviors. If you can figure out the triggers, then you can begin to avoid situations in which the triggers would appear. Finally, do not participate in their obsessions. If you can find a way to change their obsessive rituals or routines then do so, especially if their behaviors are greatly affecting their daily life.


Hoarding is a very common problem that affects many elderly individuals. However, if hoarding is a brand new behavior for your elderly loved ones, it may signal that they are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Hoarding is a common trait among many Alzheimer’s or dementia patients because it allows them to keep holding onto physical manifestations of their memories. If your elderly loved one begins to hoard their things, talk to them about their hoarding. If the issue becomes a huge problem and their house begins to get full, then try to coax them into donating some of their lowest priority items to charity. You can also help them create memory boxes to hold their most prized possessions. Memory boxes can help them prioritize their possessions and help them get rid of items they no longer need or use. Finally, if your elderly loved one does not listen to you and continues to hoard, then medication or counseling may be needed.

Over-Spending or Extreme Budgeting

If your elderly loved one spending too much money or not spending enough, then you may feel like you want to pull your hair out. Whether your loved one is a shopaholic, or is downright frugal, your loved one’s money troubles can exhaust you. The ability to keep ahold and handle of one’s money is a sign of power and independence. If your elderly loved one has lost a bit of their independence due to their age or their medical condition, then they may wish to hold onto their money to keep a small sliver of their independence. Spending too much money or spending too little money are both ways in which your loved one can exert power over their money and feel powerful. However, if overspending or underspending is becoming an issue, then it may be necessary to sit down with your loved one and talk about the issue. They may be hesitant at first, but if you talk to them gently about their issue and air your concerns then they may begin to understand the problem. However, do not demand that they turn over their money or bills to you. That would completely strip them of their financial independence and would not be in their best interests or in yours.

Caring for an elderly loved one can be extremely rewarding. But, if your elderly loved one has a few bad behaviors, then your job may go from rewarding to exhausting. The behaviors listed above and in part one of this series are some of the most common behaviors that you may notice. Try these tips first, but if it becomes too much for you to handle always remember that you can take a break from your job or hire professional help to help you with your elderly loved one if necessary. Sometimes, hiring an outside caregiver or counselor can make all of the difference in both your elderly loved ones and your life.