How to Handle a Verbally Abusive Elder

Alan Wu

October 5, 2015

Have you ever been on the receiving end of an angry outburst from your elderly mom or dad? If so, you’re not alone. While caring for an elderly parent can be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have, there are also days when your loved one may lash out at you. It’s important to understand why they may be frustrated and how you can cope with their anger while caring for them.

The Root of Senior Anger


They understand that it is safe to vent their frustration and anger on you—and you will still love and be there for them.

Anger can also be caused by Alzheimer’s, dementia, or a similar disorder, which can cause a loved one’s personality to change. Many times outbursts of anger are related to the fear and confusion they feel as a result of their disease along with the frustration and uncertainty that can come along with increased dependence on others.

One of the reasons why a family member can be unpleasant toward you is because they know they can be. They understand that it is safe to vent their frustration and anger on you—and you will still love and be there for them. Additionally, they sometimes don’t realize how they’re acting and how it affects you because they’re too focused on their own situation.

Helpful Tips for Caregivers Dealing with Senior Anger

It’s important to know how to deal with a loved one’s anger when the moment strikes. Here are a few helpful tips:

  • Learn About Their Condition – Whether they are suffering from dementia or just don’t move as well as they used to, you’ll develop more empathy for your loved one if you learn more about their condition. Consult their doctors, friends, and reputable websites like WebMD for information.
  • Understand the Effects of Dementia – Many people with dementia have what is called “Sun Down Syndrome.” During the day, they are more lucid. However, as the sun sets, they become less coherent and are more combative. Knowing more about this syndrome can help you prepare for it.
  • Trust Yourself  Caring for a loved one requires trust in your abilities to do so, and your parent must trust you to help them with activities such as bathing, getting dressed, or using the bathroom. If they seem frustrated at first, be firm, but patient with them. It takes time to foster a bond and for them to adjust to receiving help with everyday tasks.
  • Remember the Person  Be sure to see them as the person they were before and not just as a patient. It’s important to remember who they are on the inside and the love they have shown you over the years. Focusing on your family member’s good points can make it easier to emotionally detach when they act out and not take their comments personally.
  • Make Time for You – When you feel overwhelmed, look to a trusted friend or family member to keep an eye on your loved one for a few hours. Recharge your batteries with rest, exercise, or a favorite hobby. With a little time away, your parent may develop a better appreciation for all you do for them.

Finally, remember that patience is a virtue. You may need to reach deep inside to find a little extra from time to time, but in the end it will pay off for you and your parent.

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