All my dad does when I visit him in the Care Home is complain. It’s making it harder and harder to see him with a happy attitude. He’s an 85 year old vet who up until a 14mo ago was independent and still driving. Now due to years of bad eating and not taking care of his health he’s confined to a wheelchair. I get it, he’s angry now he has to rely on others to change his diapers, transfer him, etc. I’ve been trying, now his visits are getting shorter and shorter. I don’t want to sit there and hear the same complaints over and over. Is this a part of dementia? I’ve started changing the subject when I can’t take it and it seems to work and then I make my exit. I love my dad, but he stresses me out.

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Sounds to me that he is venting his ' I don't like this' list and perhaps just wants some pity or a compassionate ear.
Vague answers such as " I know...." ... or " I'm sorry you feel that way"... or " Oh really?" or "Hmmmm..." or " We can see..." ( and etc...) at least validates his concerns and he is at least heard. You don't have to say much... but there is some kind of response from you.

Frustrating to listen to? Indeed. Yet he is still (stubbornly) adjusting to a new reality that might be humiliating or ego crushing, as it were, to himself as a male.
Maybe it is his way of 'crying out for help' to you because he might not know any other way to deal with things.

Maybe do short and sweet visits - " I only have a few minutes, but I wanted to stop and say hello..." When the complaints begin do the vague responses for a while... (maybe taking him in the w/c around the hallways in the facility).. and then say, "Well, I would love to stay and chat more with you dad, but I really have to be going. Love you. Hope to stop by again soon."

Less stress for you... and he is still 'valued enough' for a visit.
Wishing you all the best ~
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to RedBerryFarm

I guess be blunt. Tell them, you would see me more if you didn't complain so much. It wears me out.
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Reply to JoAnn29

My 92 year old mother complains 24/7, non-stop. Thankfully, she lives in an Assisted Living Facility and all the old ladies can get together and complain until the cows come home, but it's still not enough. When I call her every evening, the complaining starts and doesn't stop till I hang up. And if I say something about her complaining, she'll say loudly "I'M NOT COMPLAINING!" Really? Then what would you call it? In any event, it's stressful to say the least, and prevents me from spending any real quality time with her. I've been given a suggestion to look at old photographs together, to do something fun, but mother hates old photographs. She actually hates everything and everyone, except for complaining, because that's all she's got left, I guess, at least in her mind. I also read an article that suggests the victim put out an ultimatum: "I will stay here until you start complaining about XYZ, and then I will have to leave because it stresses me out." This puts the choice into THEIR hands, and if you leave, it's not without reason as they've been warned ahead of time. I haven't tried that technique with mother yet, so I'm not sure if/how it works. But the writer of the article says it's 100% effective.

Best of luck!!!
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Reply to lealonnie1

Man that is a hard one for all of us. I do agree with both answers so far that cutting it off before it gets roaring down it's unhappy memory road is helpful. All the pent up anger needs and outlet and sadly sounds like your it.

I care for my sons, one who has severe short term memory loss and seems to lose more of his long term memory as time goes by. But that hasn't stopped him from complaining about the past either. Being younger obviously the issues are different but the emotional drain is the same.

When those days come where nothing is going to be right and he's got his "not happy" battle gear on, I usually pull out my go to bag of activities. Board games, old comics, I have him read to me, I even had him read out the directions to folding origami once. We went through picture books, and used lots of sensory therapy.

This may not be helpful for your situation. But for my son, he was angry and needed some sense of control back. I tried hard to provide that even if symbolic on those days and it helps some. I put together some scented thera puddy, metallic puzzles, fidget items, nature music with aromatherapy in room etc.

My goal was if I could make his room feel more personal, comfortable and entertaining with emotional outlets, maybe he would be less angry. It has worked some. I hear less of, you keep people from coming", and "no cares about what I want", type days where every little thing sets him off.

Maybe there is something that can be left behind for Dad to focus on so he is not piling it up inside waiting for that visit to off load his frustrations. Do you have old picture books or anything he might like that could get him thinking on happy memories? Especially since he is losing those details?

Sorry I am not much help here. I do like what the other responders said. Short visits may be what keeps you functional and its okay to do what is needed for yourself. Especially if listening never clears the angry clog so to speak.

Hope some others can offer some insight and aid.
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Reply to OctoberAngels

I think a lot of seniors complain, though, not all. One of my parents who actually has the more serious health issues hardly ever complains, but, the other one, who has few, complains constantly. I have discussed it with my parent's doctor and they have diagnosed her with depression and anxiety. They also prescribe medication, but, she refuses to take it. You might check with your father's doctor to see if meds might help him.

When the complaining goes on and on, I just ignore it or say, you should take that up with your doctor. I don't indulge it or comment otherwise. There could be seriously something that needs attending to, that's why I'd encourage him get a medical opinion. Plus, if he's 85, I'd consent that he's being doing something right.
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Reply to Sunnygirl1

By listening to LO's nonstop complaining, we're enabling it. At least, that's my opinion. Some people can be redirected; some only for a minute or two; others can't be redirected at all.

I keep the visits short. The longer they have to complain, the more wound up they get. Sometimes out of exasperation, I tell Mom: "Okay, Mom, you've had your 15 minutes of complaining. Your time's up!" This arrests the complaining for a nano second, but it makes me feel better to voice my objection. Truthfully, I have yet to find an effective means of reducing the complaining besides an antidepressant, Lexapro, which helped but unfortunately had to be discontinued.

Complaining seniors are unhappy because they miss their mobility and independence. My 93-year-old mom is incapable of understanding her condition is no one's fault but the progression of aging brain, heart, bones and muscles. Unfortunately, she's convinced the whole family conspired to imprison her in a memory care unit against her will. With mid-stage dementia, there's nothing to convince her otherwise. I wish I had more to offer than sympathy and understanding. Take care of yourself by reducing your visits. Your health and well-being matter, too!
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Reply to CantDance

Constant complaining doesn’t necessarily indicate dementia. What’s more prevalent with that disease are hallucinations and delusional behaviors. Dad is just mad at the world and unfortunately you’re taking the hit. My mother complained when I visited as well. The facility was a “hell hole” (it wasn’t) I didn’t let her start. I would immediately start talking about what was going on in MY life, with her grandchildren and great grandchildren. I pretty much didn’t let her get a word in edgewise. I’d bring McDonald’s in for her and we’d chat over lunch. Then I’d leave. I visited about twice a week.

If there is a counselor at the facility, perhaps Dad could speak with them. They may be able to help him accept his situation.
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Reply to Ahmijoy

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