Counting To More Than Ten: Coping With Unreasonable Behaviour When Caring For The Elderly
We have all, at one time or another, been out shopping or in public when a child has started to throw a tantrum. The parent inevitably tries to calm the child but only succeeds in making him or her worse. The parent is always embarrassed and you have immense sympathy for them. You go through the motions of feeling sorry for them and calling the child everything from spoilt to moody. Ultimately though, you are glad that it wasn’t you. Ironically, if you find yourself in the role of main carer for an elderly relative then you could also find yourself in that positions and, believe me, it is more embarrassing than the parent-child situation.
If you have had extensive experience of caring for the elderly then you will be accustomed to the token temper tantrums that occur every so often, but if you are not then it can be difficult to cope with. What makes it worse is the fact that you are related to the moody adult in question and thus are obliged to put up with it, no matter how difficult it may be at times. However, there are ways of coping with it.
Firstly, instead of thinking how mortified the individual in question would be if they realised what they were doing, reflect on exactly why the tantrum is occurring. If he or she is in the throes of a tantrum then this reflection may only be possible for a split second. However, it should allow you to understand it more and thus make you a little bit more relaxed in the situation. Take the amount of frustration you are feeling and times it by ten. That figure still won’t even come close to the amount of frustration that your elderly charge is feeling. Imagine being stuck in your body, having thoughts muddled to the point that you cannot think straight and then think whether you would be reacting in the same way as your relative is. If you were honest then the answer would be yes.
The method of reasoning above can help you cope to a certain extent, but then having the unreasonable behaviour directed towards you is a different matter and will provoke more potent feelings within you. If you take it as a personal attack then no amount of reasoning on your part will make it possible for you to cope. You have to somehow rise above it. Taking regular breaks is one method, maybe getting away from the individual for a few moments. It could even be a cry for attention, so ignoring the unreasonable behaviour or pretending that it hasn’t affected you may just put an end to it for long enough for you to gather your thoughts.
Sometimes, regular unreasonable behaviour will only last for a short while. Elderly people suffering from metal and physical ailments have a tendency to go through phases, just as children do so it is just a matter of weathering the storm and/or finding a way to cope with it. There is no definitive way to cope because everybody is different. The solution could be as obvious as listening to music through headphones for a while, or taking a short walk. Eventually, you will build up a resistance to it. Suddenly, you will find that a mental shutter comes down when the person that you are caring for begins to act unreasonably.
You will begin to recognise the signs that a tantrum is brewing and simply ignore it or head it off before it begins. All of this takes time and it doesn’t happen overnight. You have to figure out what works best for you. If it helps, take the attitude that he or she is a child again. That is essentially what they are and dealing with a child is not so alien to some as dealing with an adult is. If you can get into this mentality then it will seem so much easier to cope with unreasonable elderly behaviour.