Understanding Difficult Behaviors in Aging Adults and How to Respond


April 9, 2024

Understanding Difficult Behaviors in Aging Adults and How to Respond

As a family caregiver, you may have encountered challenging behaviors in the aging adults under your care.

Changes in their typical behavior and routines could signify shifts in health and mental well-being. It’s crucial to be observant and discern what these behaviors might indicate. Here are some practical steps to take:

Difficult Behaviors in Aging Adults and What to do

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  • Active Listening: Pause tasks like housecleaning, driving, or meal preparation. Sit down, make eye contact, and truly listen to their concerns.

  • Ask and Collaborate: Inquire about their needs and collaborate to find solutions that align with their preferences.

  • Find Alternatives: If they can no longer do something they desire, help them explore alternative options.

  • Set Boundaries: Establish healthy limits for yourself based on your capabilities and other commitments. Clearly communicate what you can and cannot do.

  • Seek Support: Engage with siblings, family members, or other support networks for assistance.

Difficult Behaviors in Aging Adults

Here are some examples of challenging behaviors you might encounter:

  • Restlessness
  • Agitation
  • Combativeness or aggressiveness
  • Wandering
  • Mood swings
  • Hallucinations
  • Mistrust
  • Over-controlling behavior
  • Critical and demanding demeanor

Possible Causes of Difficult Behaviors in Aging Adults and Coping Strategies

Identifying the root cause of difficult behavior is essential. Consider these potential triggers:

  • Pain: Look out for signs of physical discomfort and seek medical attention promptly.

  • Medication Side Effects: Consult the doctor regarding dosage adjustments or alternative medications.

  • Nutritional Issues: Address physical health concerns or explore options like community meal programs.

  • Environmental Factors: Modify surroundings to ensure comfort, such as adjusting temperature and lighting.

  • Fatigue: Provide opportunities for rest and consult with medical professionals if needed.

  • Sensory Loss: Address vision or hearing impairments with appropriate aids.

  • Inactivity: Encourage physical activity within their capabilities.

  • Feelings of Powerlessness: Empower them with assistive devices and involve them in decision-making.

  • Confusion or Memory Loss: Foster a calm environment and utilize memory aids.

Consistency: Maintain consistency in routines and environmental factors to minimize confusion.

By understanding these behaviors and their potential causes, you can effectively support aging adults in maintaining their well-being and quality of life.

Source: This post is an excerpt from our educational page titled, Behavior and Emotions of Aging.

We hope this information is helpful to you in the important work you do as a family caregiver.
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