by francy Dickinson www.seniorcarewithspirit.com
Dear Francy; My Dad is in his early sixties, he has been divorced and on his own for years. He is now going through a stage that he calls and needs me to do all sorts of things for him. I’m trying to be there for him, I go over when ever he calls, but I’m busy with my own family. When I do go over he’s angry with me. I am his only child and I sadly dread the visits, what can I do?
I understand and I am sorry about this it’s a way with older folks, many times men especially, will display anger when they have frustrations in their life. So, lets begin with his age of sixty plus, that is young he should live into his eighties or nineties, so think of him as a person that needs to be healed and treated, not just old. Get your ducks in a row with the Health Care Directive signed and in place with your name as his partner in health. That is important so you can work with him on his health issues in years to come. Then schedule a good review of his health with a doctor. Write a letter to the doctor and drop it off or send it ahead of his appointment so you can tell him this issue of sudden needs and anger. The doctor needs to know to address emotional issues that might not surface in the exam if he is not notified.
There is a great issue of depression in men on their own. Not that depression does not effect women but men are especially hit with it and they rarely have the ability to talk it through. If he is newly retired, that is often a problem. He looked forward to many projects and kept busy until they were all in place and suddenly, he is faced with years of retirement and no where to go. There is also a problem after a spouse has passed, a year or so later, the realization that life is ahead with loneliness and no reason to be happy- hits. All of these things happen to many people single or in a relationship, that is why we have them checked and go to a support group, senior center or stay active with family to keep their emotional health up. If there is an on going problem, they will need medication and or counseling to get them healthy again. So you have to be pushy about getting a doctor’s opinion. Write down a few of the episodes of anger, so the doctor can see what stemmed the anger and if it might be body or emotional based. Once you have that diagnoses then you can help him with the treatment and go forward.
Tips on dealing with anger;
- You are the pivot point to anger – as the caregiver it is you that can start or end an angry session. So arrive up- in energy and remove your emotions and just do what is needed and leave. It is very hard to do this, because you will think that the person hates you or you have done something wrong. But emotional anger has a base in the person not with you…so pivot that anger by being in charge of your own emotions.
- I deal with my husbands dementia all the time and I have learned to refocus him into a different project, idea, talking point or action. This will remove his frustration of the moment and get him thinking in a different direction. It takes practice, but I have learned how to avoid a lot of arguments by keeping him off a subject and onto another. I do this by interrupting a conversation and interject a whole new thought pattern.
Example:George was up in arms about trimming our trees, had spent hours getting saws out in his work space and trying to do this task. I went out and told him my back was bothering me – could he come and help me move something in my office? He followed me into the house and the anger and frustration of his project was over the pattern broken. After he helps me, I praise him and get him a piece of pie and he then releases his day long project and returns to his TV or reading and the anger and frustration is over.
- If your dad has had a history of being involved in faith center or events, or if he has long ago given up a hobby –this is the time to reintroduce him to those events. Doing something he knows is easier for a senior than starting something new.
- Interaction with others. No one can be on their own for days at a time and stay happy. Little things start to become big things and small problems become a big mess. So, break this pattern by making sure he is doing a few weekly outings. Senior centers have card days or bowling teams, or any hobby he likes. Local libraries need volunteers as do teen centers and soup kitchens. Senior Universities are all over the place with weekly classes and lectures on fun subjects. These classes are just an evening or afternoon of information and it becomes an enjoyable routine. Your own family has weekly outings he could join, sports events, teen pick up from classes and school, school performances, bi monthly family picnics or dinners. There are ways for him to move into the world again and keep him with a weekly calendar of events that will fill his mind and spirit.
- Exercise is a great way to bring a senior back into good health. Joining you for a walk twice a week, or getting him into a senior bike program or golf game can improve his mind and his outlook.
- Talking to a support group or hobby group is great for a man’s interaction. You will find that Twitter and online support groups also provide a non evasive way to express feelings and interests. Woman usually have women to talk to, but if not, they too need to be attached to a group that will help them express their feelings among friends that understand.
- Eating well, can be a huge thing for men or women living alone. Days of empty food and no supplements can make a big difference in any ones life. So adding food from you or a service could be a big boost. He may have a neighbor that’s a senior and would be willing to provide 2-3 dinners a week, for a small charge. You then know that good food is on his plate and helping him feel well. Being creative with care is never easy, but it can make a big difference in his lifestyle and emotional wellbeing.
- Moving; many seniors try to keep their home forever. Nice if they can do it, but over burdened with yard, house, money or repairs is not a pretty picture for anyone. So, if he needs to relax and get yard or house cleaning help get that done. If he is not able to really do the work, then suggest a few visits to local townhouses where yard work is provided or retirement communities where everything is at hand for easy living. Moving early means a life of comfort in retirement, not worry over a huge move sometime in the future, usually when the senior is unwell. Keep them close to you, but find a place to tuck them in with a smile. The retirment communities are so diverse now, that you can find all price ranges in your search.
- Get him a pet to protect and care for at the local humane society. Often a furry pal will totally change a person. Instead of having a day ahead with nothing to do, you suddenly have to feed and walk the dog or change the cat box. It’s just this small chore, that keeps a senior busy and thinking of something other than their own problems.
- Ask him to help you – what do you have around your home to fix or do? Men love to be of service, figure out different chores and ask him to come over and do them and then give him a good dinner and movie to share. Example: I would ask my mother to come over and make pie crusts. Then we would freeze them. She loved to make pie crusts, mine have always been horrid, so it was a nice way for her to do for me and I would get her talking and give her a nice day and dinner. Now that she is gone, I buy the frozen crusts which do not come close to the ones she made for me as well as miss our times together.
- Do not be a child, sit down and talk about anger issues. Tell him you are here to love him and have a nice visit to help him, but this anger is out of bounds. If there is something that bothers him about you, get it out and see if you can talk it through and leave the issue behind. Let him know, you will not be abused with words, they are hurtful and you do not want to have them in your life. Do not involve yourself with anger, this is a grown up talk between two adults, not a shouting match. But, remember, this conversation only works if he is not drinking, or in a depression or any altered state, those situations change the playing field and are why you need to have him checked out medically so you know what is what from the get go.
- Interaction during your day. Call him and ask if he is watching a news alert, or if he is going to watch a special program that night. Make things to talk about so you have more of a give and take talk during your week. Get your teen to teach him how to text message to them even if he does it on the computer. Set up a Twitter or Facebook account and get him used to it so he can enjoy it. This stuff is a perfect thing to do with grandchildren. Add an MP3 player with his favorite music and downloaded books from the library, a new digital camera or video for the kid’s sports events. Those are things that grandchildren will enjoy doing for him and give a boost to connections within the family.
- Don’t forget the geneology part of life, it can be very involved and fun to learn about heritage. To express an interest in wanting your kids to know about their past family history and ask if the family pictures could be organized for them. This is a project that can involve your dad, you,your kids and many other groups that do geneolgy in person or on the Internet.
- Know that as people age, the progress of health and mental health is not in stone. Dementia can set in early or late in life. Heart health can hit you in your thirties as well as in your sixties. Aches with arthitus can zap your energy and a simple addition of joint supplements can make a huge difference in pain control. So just take it step at a time, and read and learn because helping someone age means that you are helping yourself age well in the future.
- Reality is that most women are the organizers of events, food, doctor appointments and family for men. That is how our society works. So, if your dad does not have a gal in his life…you are the it girl. So, try to just let this sink in and add him to your list of boys to care for in your life…once you get this in place in your own mind, you can move your dad into a lifestyle that is good for him and for you. I know there are exceptions to this rule, but I have found very few in my care giving years.
I know that your creative mind will come up with other ideas. Once you get your mind in a direction to solve problems it becomes so much easier. Just remember anger does not mean they do not love and appreicate you. Seniors just have troublem expressing their feelings and dealing with their body changes. So be a sleuth and find out what is at the base of the anger, not what is on top of it.
Please do go to my website at www.seniorcarewithspirit.com for more ideas. I have a great e-book called Care Giving 101 Workbook that will help you with giving care in your own home or in the senior’s home. It has all the basic home nursing tips and gives you ideas to support yourself as well as your spouse or loved one. These books are very popular with care givers and I encourage you to buy one so you can feel more in power of your situation as the care giver. It can be very lonely out there all alone when you are giving care – I want to make the experience more comforting for you.
I write these blogs to share information that I have gathered in my many years of care giving. I am now tending to my husband with Alzheimer’s and my books and services are how I’m able to stay at home and care for him. Thanks for all you are doing for your own loved one, blessings. francy
PS I am on Twitter @seniorcaretips and I would love to have you listen to my talk radio show on senior care issues just click the radio button on my home page. The show is on demand so you can listen whenever you have time.