Dealing with Negative Elderly Parents

Family dynamics can be challenging at times. Sure, we love our parents, and we are grateful to have them in our lives. Yet sometimes, people can change as they age. In some cases, aging parents tend to become more negative or pessimistic. If that’s the case, it can be difficult for you and your family members to gracefully accept this change. There may be many reasons why someone may become more negative as they get older. Even so, it’s important to love and support your family member if you’re able. Here are some tips on how to do that.

A Sudden Shift into a Negative Attitude

First and foremost, if you notice that your parent suddenly becomes negative after being positive or upbeat most of their life, you may want to consider medical reasons. It would be wise for you to help your parent obtain a medical exam in this situation.

Sudden personality shifts could signal that there’s an underlying medical issue at play. This could be anything from a urinary tract infection to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. They could also be suffering from cognitive decline or memory loss – it’s not just their physical health that could be a factor. If you notice personality changes or mood swings from someone that hasn’t had mental health issues in the past, it’s time to have a conversation with your parent’s doctor. It can be difficult for you or your senior parent to know what could be causing that sudden shift. In that case, seeking medical help to rule out any serious conditions is a good idea.

Other Reasons for Negative Attitudes

Woman packing up her home to move out

Beyond medical concerns, other reasons could be at play when parents develop negative attitudes. Understanding what’s going on can help you avoid taking this personally.

For example, has your parent recently moved into a senior care facility after living independently for years? If so, consider that this might be the reason behind that increased negativity. It can be highly emotional and stressful for someone to have a loss of independence, not to mention many of their belongings, in order to downsize.

Be sure to consider your parent’s social life if you notice them being more negative. Staying active and engaging with others is essential to overall well-being. If your parent doesn’t socialize much, that can contribute to a negative outlook on life.

Similarly, the aches and pains of aging can be responsible for someone having a negative attitude. Aging can sometimes be hard to go through. Plus, having chronic pain can really put someone in a negative mood.

Don’t Take Things Personally.

Woman sitting alone in a wheelchair, loneliness, senior living

It can feel impossible at times but try not to take your parent’s negativity personally. Often, it’s not about you at all. As your parent, they likely love you and want the best for you. But it may be hard for them to remember that beyond the pain or isolation they may be feeling.

How You Can Help Your Negative Parent

If you haven’t already, be sure to spend quality time with your parent. If they are bored or feeling lonely, this could have an impact on their negativity. Consider reminiscing with them about fond memories from your childhood or perhaps playing their favorite board game. You could even take a painting class together for something more active. They just might take an interest in a new hobby, which could further improve their mood. Helping older parents find more social events, celebrating important dates with them, or even making an occasional phone call can help bring about positive behavioral changes.

Start a Conversation

Conversation with negative elderly parent can help

Maybe you’ve taken your parent to the doctor, and they have a clean bill of health. And perhaps you’ve spent intentional time with your parent to show them you love them. Yet they’re still being negative, and you don’t know why or if there’s anything you can do.

In that case, start a gentle conversation with your parent. It could start with a simple but heartfelt, “How are you doing?” Or you may want to tell them that you’re worried about their more negative outlook lately and you’re wondering how you can help. Sometimes, just asking a simple question and being there for a person can help if they’re going through something difficult or painful.

Protecting Yourself

Know that your parent may not always realize they have become more negative. Or they may know it, but they don’t mind it or don’t mind how it impacts you and others. Remember that you are not able to make anyone change. However, you can set gentle boundaries to protect yourself.

For example, let’s say your parent continually complains about everything. You’ve even offered to step in and help them make changes, like painting their room a more cheerful color or taking them to a watercolor painting class with their neighbors because they say they feel lonely. If you’ve done what you reasonably can to alleviate their concerns, yet they still insist on complaining and being negative, you may need to set a boundary.

You might say that you’re happy to continue to visit them, but you are no longer going to listen to complaints about feeling lonely. Remind them of the things you’ve tried to help them socialize and that they don’t seem to want to help themselves.

It’s a good idea to also remind them that you love them and are there for them if they need anything else. But this particular negative complaint is one you’re unable to listen to because they refuse to change anything and seem to prefer to complain about it.

Loving Negative Elderly Parents

Loving your negative elderly parent can help them through hard times

You can still love your parents, even if they have grown more negative. Understanding why that might be and what you can do about it will help you deal with a negative elderly parent. If you want to motivate positive changes in your situation, you might consider bringing a professional caregiver into the mix that can help with respite care and simple tasks. They can help your parents with their prescription medications, grocery shopping, and daily routines. One of the best ways to keep good relationships with your parents is to stay proactive. If you’re still experiencing a toxic parent, it may be time to bring in a social worker or a geriatric care manager to assist you. They can help find the cause of your parent’s abusive behavior and rule out a variety of reasons that could be causing your parent to display common negative behaviors.

Read Next:

Difficult Conversations to Have with Your Parents

Anger Can Be Good

What To Say When Someone Is Dying

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