Bad Day, Need Help – Note in bottle from Caregiver

Francy Dickinson                   

Dear Francy: I am having such a hard time, I have tried and tried to get my dad’s outlook more positive – but he is just stuck in mud since my mother’s passing. Help?

Yes, that is called the angry old man syndrome and it is a real effect of men that have been pampered and loved so much that when they lose that spouse they simply retreat in anger. It is certainly not directed at you, it is directed at the world.

So lets go over some tips for you to use:

  • Exercise, even if he is really limited you must get him up and out the door. A walk a day with an older neighbor, a walk with the dog, a drop off at the Y and let him do a senior exercise program, or just you and he walking around the house every time he goes to the bathroom!
  • Get him a good multi-senior vitamin supplement and add a few other things to it. B-12 is a biggie for brain function, and lots of folks are talking about Vitamin D for seniors so go and do some Google work and see what you can find to make his system work as well as it can.
  • Reduce his sugar, if he’s diving into cookies and candy to relieve his depression. Change that get some puddings and Jello without sugar. He eats- the sugar gets a lift and then comes crashing down to depression or his current form, anger. So keep him on a more stable up and down with a lower sugar intake.
  • Invite others in to visit him. Call some of his older friends and ask them to come over for a piece of pie and coffee and to visit your dad…if you have no one, then go to a local church and just talk to the minister and ask if he has seniors that like to do lay-work in the community and would visit him and play cards or take a walk.
  • Have at least one event every month that he enjoys and looks forward to get out of the house. I give this one to your kids or grand kids to pick. The miniature train display at the historical museum, the WWII movie at the local theater, the Civil War re-enactment at the local park, the July 4th parade in a small local town. Just give this to the kids to figure out and they will enjoy the event along side of him.
  • Try the penny jar routine. You put out two jars, one filled with pennies or beans…and every time he says a swear word or gets mad you –go over and put a penny in the empty jar. This is an amazing way to show someone they are repeating a negative task. You can say, dad you are swearing so much it bothers me, but he could care less – until he actually sees that empty jar filling up with pennies from his own actions. You will see a change, I promise, I have used this with myself and I have really been able to make a mental note on change.
  • Doctors can prescribe meds if they know what is going on. Write a letter to his doctor and just tell him the changes your dad has made and see if the doctor feels meds can help. I believe in these meds, my husband has Alzheimer’s and one Zoloff pill a day keeps his confusion and anger away!
  • Give him things to do. Make sure he is not sitting all day watching TV. If he is at his own home, write a list of honey do’s-just like your mother would have done. And press him to get one or two done before your next visit. If he is with you, you do the same. Make the chores easy and with no more than three steps to finish the task then he will feel he has a reason to keep going.
  • Ask his advice. I would sit down with him once a week and tell him you have a choice on a few things this week. Should you go ahead and try to save money with these coupons that you see on the TV that everyone uses or should you just shop in the discount grocery store and not worry about the fuss. Ask him what he thinks. He may blow it off and think your conversation is not worthy, but do not take it personally, the information will go into his mind and he will make a comment on it at a later time. You are giving him the respect to ask his opinion and that is what he needs. Even if the conversation is not deep, it only has to be sincere. You can talk about politics or neighborhood problems, just talk.
  • Make sure his surroundings are reflective of him. If he is in his own home, make sure your mothers things do not dominate his visual everyday. Move the furniture around in the living room to give his chair a better view of the window and the TV. Paint the room, use earth tones throw pillows. In small ways remove your mother’s feminine side and allow him to have a space that is his- instead of him living in a museum to his wife.
  • After an incident that you two argue or you get your feelings hurt. Let time pass…maybe a few hours or a day and then go and sit down with him and say. You know dad I am trying hard to live my life with lots of people that need me, I count on you loving me and giving me support. No more arguments OK? No long boo hoo passages, just let him know, he is a part of your family team and you need him to support you- not fight against your every move.

Well I hope some of these things help bring your dad back to a place that he can find a good smile. I certainly appreciate your time with him, I know it is not a pleasant thing to be with a person that is angry at the world. Please do sign up for my newsletter and visit my web site for more information at You are doing a very good job, just think creative, not negative when you’re giving him care.  

Thanks, francy


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