Elderly Care: How to Deal with Elderly Parents with Behaviour Problems

Elderly parents may exhibit challenging behaviours for various reasons. It’s essential to understand why and to know when to seek expert advice.

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Growing old is something that we must all face, but not everyone deals with it in a calm and relaxed manner. All too often family members complain that an elderly loved one is hostile, unpleasant, rude or awkward, and this can lead to explosive family rows and simmering resentment on both sides.

Why do elderly parents behave badly?

Old age is said to bring wisdom, but in many cases, it can also bring mobility problems, issues with sight and hearing and a failing memory. These can all cause distress and even anger to the person, which unfortunately can lead them to lash out verbally, if not physically. Add chronic pain into the mix, and this can be a recipe for a discontented family unit.

Some older people retain their faculties right up to the end of their lives, but many older people become depressed as their friends and peers die. Most older people were taught not to discuss their emotions and feelings, but which have to have an outlet regardless. Additionally, early symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia can cause aggression and bad language in even the most mild-mannered of people.


How to cope with anger and abuse

It’s important not to be drawn into arguments by your elderly parent, no matter what the provocation. Try to reclassify their bad behaviour as distress about their circumstances, rather than seeing it as a personal affront. It may help to realise that your loved one is taking out their anger on you because they know that you will accept it, and they are unable to express their unhappiness in any other way.

If possible, try to discuss the anger or abuse with your parent and tell them how it makes you feel, as there is a good chance that they haven’t stopped to consider your feelings. They may be shocked to discover that they have upset you.

If this doesn’t help, then you should try to remove yourself from their presence for a while, as this may give them time to reflect on their behaviour. Of course, if the behaviour is a direct result of an underlying medical problem such as dementia, then you may need to accept that you need help to care for your parent.

There are elderly care options, such as elderly live-in care, providing carers that will live with your parent 24/7, helping with all aspects of their lives from getting up to arranging outings and preparing nutritious meals. Many live-in carers are trained in dementia care and can cope with the particular demands that this condition can cause, without being drawn into arguments. It’s not an admission of failure to ask for help, and it could make all the difference to the relationship with your parent.


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How to cope with antisocial behaviour

Inappropriate language, swearing and a failure to keep clean are all aspects of antisocial behaviour seen in elderly people. Bad language, particularly from a parent who doesn’t normally use it, can also be a sign of dementia, so don’t assume that they are being deliberately rude. A failure to keep clean could be a way of exerting control over a life that seems restrictive, or it could be another sign of impending mental illness.

Once again, a home care package can be helpful, allowing you to step away from the disturbing behaviour. Live-in carers can provide all sorts of help, from the most basic companion care through to intensive dementia care.

The caregiver will make sure that your parent is washed, dressed and well fed, and can organise medical appointments and outings, leaving you free to enjoy your parent’s company. A caregiver will never be drawn into an argument and knows how to divert the person’s attention away from the bad behaviour. This is something that family members struggle with, as they not only lack the training, but they have too much history and emotional baggage invested in the relationship to do so effectively.


The loss of control over every aspect of life drives some older people to develop strange obsessions that occupy their time. If your parent has formerly suffered from an obsessive compulsive disorder, then this is likely to reappear with old age. This can indicate that your parent is suffering from anxiety or depression, and is a sign that they need medical help, as such behaviour is beyond the ability of a family member to deal with.

Hoarding is a particular problem that can be a sign of impending dementia, or it may be a way for your parent to cope with the feelings of losing control. Don’t try to deal with problems like this on your own, as this is complex behaviour which requires professional help to resolve.


There is a noticeable difference in my Mother since we started with Elder

“The security and patience of live-in care has meant my mother has relaxed and her general disposition has improved to no end.”

Mark, Swansea

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