Sources of a Senior's Bad Mood


Caring for your loved one every day is stressful in any situation, and it becomes especially challenging when your loved one is never satisfied. Everything you do just doesn’t seem to be enough. You may begin to feel like you are letting them down, even though you are efficiently handling all their requests. You feel hopeless because they just won’t let up with the constant complaints, criticisms and demands.

Sometimes you may not understand your loved one’s reasoning; therefore you take the criticism or complaints personally. It is important to take a step back and analyze the situation with a fresh set of eyes. Why is mom suddenly upset when I prepare her usual breakfast of oatmeal and fruit? Why does dad resist assistance when I’m only trying to help? To find the answers, you may need to do some detective work.

Common Factors That Can Cause a Senior's Bad Mood

Could it be stress? It’s no surprise that stress takes a toll on one’s body, mind and soul. Seniors can become especially irritable when feeling stressed, and caregivers need to have compassion and learn to not take things as seriously. Try to understand they are perhaps feeling vulnerable and just need to vent to someone. Unfortunately, that someone may be you – but try to keep a positive attitude.

Is it health related? Changes in behavior could be a sign of physical or mental decline. Look for these signs, as well as signs of pain. Keep in mind that your loved one might be confused or afraid to say anything to you about it. Cognitive difficulties can have strange or surprising sources, such as bacterial infections like a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). If you notice changes in your loved one’s behavior, contact their doctor and request an evaluation.

Are medications to blame? Drastic shifts in personality can be the result of new medications or even new drug interactions. Keep a lookout for changes in behavior after your loved one begins a new prescription, and always make sure a pharmacist checks all drug combinations. Abuse of prescription medications can cause marked changes in personality as well.

Has this been a life-long behavior? In some ways, people change, grow and evolve with age. But it is very likely that if your loved one has been grouchy, verbally abusive, or just plain mean his entire life, old age will not cure that. In fact, the personality traits may become more prevalent. How does a caregiver handle an elder who is never going to change? Read the next tip!

Take a step back and set some boundaries. Breathe. Relax. Be patient. Figure out a good plan to set boundaries for your loved one if their behavior gets out of control, because you don’t want to feel burned out. Get some help. Taking a break will help both you and your loved one deal with the frustration. If your loved one needs more help than you can give, or you feel you are no longer willing to care for that person (a normal reaction to difficult elders) consider a home care company. Your loved one will be in good hands, and you can keep your sanity.

Renata Gelman, RN, B.S.N., is assistant director of clinical services at Partners in Care, an affiliate of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNSNY). In this role, she coordinates patient care and manages a multi-disciplinary team of field nursing and home health care professionals in the clinical area of a VNSNY’s private care division.

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Sometimes negative statements and complaining can just be an elder's way of communicating. They want to talk, but their current experiences are limited. So they talk about what they know -- pains, sickness, loss. It can get mighty depressing to listen to. It helps to think of it as them telling us how their day was. No school, no work, only home life, medication, and discomfort. It can help if you can get them to take a tour back to an earlier time. We may have heard the stories a million times, but they are better than listening to negative remarks.
My mother sleeps a LOT. I find her bad mood is directly tied to how much she forces herself to sleep (it's her answer to her severe depression).

Just my experience!
In my defense I became self- righteous. We feel we're doing it all but what's needed most is lots of communication. Understanding each other as we both grow in this new relationship. Sometimes the routine ( here's this here's that.) overshadows the tender moments both need. Your in charge, make a hug kiss or smile the starting point. You'll like you better.