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My mother has been very irritable and snarky lately. I've noticed that it occurs unexpectedly and usually over little things. Would like to know if others have experienced this and how you dealt with it.

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First, we need to understand that the words "seniors" and "dementia" are not interchangeable. Do seniors go through mood swings more than others? In general, healthy, active seniors who I know are some of the most stable people around. They know what is important and what is not. They have good brains and if they have health issues, they deal with them and continue on.

People with dementia (even younger people who have younger onset Alzheimer's disease) will likely have dramatic mood swings. People who have depression, whatever the cause, or other mental health diseases, are likely to have mood changes. People in chronic pain or who have problems breathing are likely to have mood swings. People who have uncontrolled diabetes or terrible diets may have mood swings. This is true at any age.

Having physical issues addressed and, if cognitive issues are a likely problem having them addressed, is how we can decide if someone who is having major mood issues needs help.

Yes, age is a major risk factor for dementia, so if you have a family member who is getting older and is having mood swings, that person could be in the earlier stages of dementia. Getting checked by a qualified physician is what needs to be done.

I'd love to see everyone who has "difficult" elders be able to accomplish this, but sadly, many elders will refuse to be treated. In that case, those elders will likely be very difficult.Their refusal to get medical help is often part of their disease which makes the whole process horrible for their loved ones.
Carol
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I don't know if their mood swings are greater, but between them loosing their social filters due to dementia and having both their body and mind deteriorating- they've got more to be moody about. As for their families and caregivers learning to deal with it, that seems to be the challenge- one that results in busy websites such as this one. At least for me, I learned a little late in the game that determining boundries is key. What you will stand for in terms of verbal abuse and expectations regarding the time, energy and sacrifice it takes to be a hands-on caregiver and/or a care manager and coordinator. That can be difficult enough but even more challenging- at least for me - is the ability to grow a thick skin, let mean and snarky words and behavior roll off your back - and remembering that they are in fact ill and often it is the illness that is to blame.
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I have read with great respect to all who are answering. Even though it has all bee addressed very well, I felt I had to comment. This forum was a lifeline for me as I was taking care of my mama.
Elder rage is very real but manageable. Please remeber even if direct at you it is not about you, Your mama has gone from being able to take care of herself to now needing help. Things that she was once able to do, she no longer can. It is hard to depend on another. It is hard to lose control. It is hard to no longer be who you once were. Any of us would be frustrated and probably raging. Please read the book, glean from it what you can, pray often, go outside and scream or cry yourself, if needed. Above all don't give up and don't stop loving mama. My mother left me over a year ago. The time comes much quicker than you thin it will be and then everything pales. You can do it. Love, love, love. There were days I was harder on mama as she changed because her doctor never said dementia. It wasn't until three months before I lost her that I heard those words. She lived with us for five years. Be patient with her and yourself. Blessings!
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I agree with everything the other posters have said. My mom was always a self-centered, negative "victim", but when she started to go downhill with dementia, it got worse. As the only child, of course I was the target. One day I visited her and although she was still rambling nonsensical things, she suddenly said, "When I look in the mirror, I don't recognize myself anymore." I can't even imagine what that must be like. We all cope with aging. But in your mind, to see yourself like when you were decades younger, to spend most of your time in that world and then catch your reflection in the mirror and see someone your don't recognize even though you know, on some level, it's YOU...how awful that must be. Mom is still negative, sometimes combative and talking nonsense, but this one statement she made, this revelation, helped me to understand her world as it is now a little bit better.
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In my mother's case, she has become kinder and nicer as she has aged, esp in the last 6 months. I was told to leave her alone (that's a nice way to put what she said to me) and so I did, for about 5 months. When I did a tentative step back into some caregiving, she was surprisingly sweet, which she has never really been. In asking my brother, who is her primary caregiver, he said 'I think she's had some mild strokes". Well, if that's what it took to level her out, OK. someone once told me that we don't REALLY change as we age, we just get "more like ourselves". I'm finding that true in myself...and trying to be aware of it and not drive my family batty.
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Hi - I read a book called Elder Rage written by and about Jacqueline Marcell's trials, tribulations, and eventual success at managing the care of her aging parents. "Elder Rage" is also an extensive self-help book with creative solutions for effective management medically, behaviorally, socially, legally, financially, and emotionally of challenging elders who resist care.

It is an extreme example of elderly issues surrounding temperament. I am not certain I agree with the entirety of the contents of the book, but it did help me realize I was not alone - and for some of us - that is also known as survival
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I just read a really great book called "The 36 Hour Day." I gained insight into the situations that might lead my mother to have a burst of temper. Now I know to back off a bit when I see the first signs of confusion and frustration. If I push her further it leads to a full blown burst of temper.
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Talk to her doctor. Anyone with a heart condition can have clinical depression. Senior females will have lowered hormones that can throw off chemicals in the body, but there is no age group that has a license to be nasty (unless you are a two-year old). Check out her thyroid, and/or she could be having dementia symptoms and she doesn't know what to do about her unusual thinking.
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I would have lunch with her and beat around the bush long enough until she would confide in me. I complained about my memory loss, my weak bladder and so on until I hit the nail on the head. We would commiserate and she would feel better after she vented.
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Jazzy the simple answer is yes they do especially if they are failing mentally and physically although either one can initiate it. However in my experience it is NEVER the real problem that generates the snarkiness it always seems to be a button they know they can press to get a response to which they can really get snappy about.

Example: Mum can't get the top of her sweet jar - now she will get really mad because she has to ask me to do it (although she wont - she will just point and says I have put in on too tightly despite me never touching it!) and I will open it for her and all will be well. Then as I put lunch on the table she will start. Thats too much, I don't like, you haven't cut the meat thin enough, you know I don't eat x y or z and it changes every day so I truly don't know what she wont eat at any given meal.

She knows and there is not one doubt in my mind of her awareness here that by attacking me over my cooking or meal preparation she will get a response and then she can really let rip. If I push back too much the plate will go on the floor or thrown at me.

I have learnt and am still learning not to bite back but it is damned hard. I tried asking her what she would like - waste of time - I get told cake or chocolate sandwiches or toast and jam. It is I am afraid something you will have to learn to cope with as I find each step down causes her anxiety which isn't managed with meds - the docs have said they can managed it with meds but she would be asleep almost all the time and the guidelines forbid that sort of medication (as they should - it hastens death if the elderly are asleep that much0. eep breath bite the bullet and try empathy - it hasn't worked for me at all but I know as Pam said it does work for some
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