Understanding Angry Outbursts in Elderly Adults

As we age, we go through a lot of changes – both physically and mentally. Sometimes, these changes can be difficult to adjust to. Many aging adults may experience a decline in cognitive function, which can lead to confusing and frustrating feelings. At times, these frustrating feelings elderly adults have can manifest into angry outbursts or tantrums. If you have an elderly loved one who is prone to outbursts, it’s important to understand what the cause is and how to calm the situation.

What causes angry outbursts in seniors?

There is any number of reasons your loved one could be experiencing outbursts. The realization of getting older, perhaps a loss of independence, or feeling like a burden to others can all lead to increased feelings of frustration. Beyond the growing pains of getting older, your senior loved one’s outbursts may be caused by:

  • Did you know more than 6 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s today and by 2050 that number is suspected to rise to 13 million? Conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease often cause confusion and disorientation. These feelings, in turn, can lead to increased anxiety and agitation.
  • Depression is fairly common in seniors and can cause feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, and helplessness – all of which can contribute to angry outbursts.
  • Communication difficulties can also be a big trigger for angry outbursts in elderly adults. If your loved one feels like no one is listening to them or they can’t express themselves, it can leave them feeling helpless and misunderstood.
  • Medication side effects can also play a role in angry outbursts and mood swings. If your loved one is taking medication for a chronic condition, be sure to ask their doctor about potential side effects such as mood swings and irritability.
  • Realizing you can’t take care of things quite the way you used to can be difficult to process. If your loved one feels like they’re losing their independence, it can lead to feelings of frustration and resentment.

How to deal with your senior’s angry outbursts.

If your senior experiences an angry outburst, try to stay calm and avoid arguing with them. It’s important not to take their anger personally. Instead, try to understand what might be causing the outburst and see if there’s anything you can do to help. If the outburst is caused by a medication side effect, for example, you can speak to their medical team about different dosages or alternatives.

Oftentimes, simply being there for your loved one and listening to their concerns can remind them that you love and care for them. If the root cause is not immediately apparent, however, it may help to simply distract your loved one or redirect their attention to something else. Sometimes, all it takes is a change of scenery to help diffuse the situation. In other cases, Remember to focus on the positive and avoid bringing up any negative feelings or experiences.

Even though angry outbursts or temper tantrums can be somewhat common in the aging community, it’s not to be taken lightly. Studies show anger is more harmful to older adults than sadness and can even lead to chronic illness, according to the American Psychological Association (APA)

If you find that your loved one’s outbursts are becoming more frequent or severe, it’s important to seek professional help. Their primary care physician can assess their overall health and rule out any potential causes for the outbursts. They may also refer your loved one to a mental health specialist for further evaluation.

Finally, remember to give yourself a break. Caring for an elderly loved one can be a full-time job. Make sure to take time for yourself and to do things you enjoy. Take advantage of respite care services or ask other family members or friends for help when needed.

If you’ve been putting off looking for home healthcare assistance, now may be the time to give RetireEASE a call. Our team of dedicated caregivers can provide companionship, transportation, and help around the house so you can take a break. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you and your loved one.

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