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how to deal with angry seniorsHave any of you ever met a difficult person?  Well, as caregivers, we sometimes encounter difficult care recipients.  They can be excessively demanding, angry, manipulative, or critical.  Caregivers may respond with anger, guilt, or exhaustion.  Depression, anxiety, anger, and pain can drain caregivers who must interact regularly with difficult individuals (i.e., those who are abusive, belligerent, or combative).

Tips for working with difficult adults:

  1. Respect that difficult individuals must want to initiate their own healing process.  They cannot be “fixed”.
  2. Center yourself.  Clear out your own feelings.
  3. Accept difficult individuals where they are.  When you recognize the behavior for what it is, you can better understand the person you are dealing with and to tailor your response accordingly.
  4. Questions are generally less helpful than listening and observing.
  5. Never lie to difficult care recipients, say what you mean and mean what you say.
  6. Be gentle but strong.  Set firm limits and stick to them.

In her book, Working with Toxic Older Adults: A Guide to Coping with Difficult Adults, Gloria M. Davenport writes:

“Surrounding toxic adults with steadfast boundaries and love means to be there,to be a presence but detached and free from seductive toxic hooks and games.”  It means setting personal limits and boundaries.  It means loving yourself enough to control your own fears and defenses, enabling and empowering you to sustain objective support.  Boundaries are “psychological fences” because they define emotional limits.  They define what is “in bounds” and what is “out of bounds”.

In healthy relationships, boundaries act as operational parameters that outline how the caregiver and care recipient relationship works, boundaries perform critical functions, including:

  • Helping caregivers define what they will and will not accept in their behavior and the behavior of their care recipient.
  • Assisting caregivers in defining and respecting their “no’s”.
  • Reminding caregivers of their responsibility to behave consciously.
  • Helping caregivers get priority needs met in order to set boundaries, it is vital for caregivers to rank their priority needs.
  • Outlining the framework for how they will connect and share their energy with the care recipient.

This is a fairly sensitive topic and frankly not discussed often but one that is needed as we explore the wide range of caregiving techniques and options.