Dealing with Anger: Caregivers and Seniors

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Anger is a Natural Feeling

As we go through life dealing with emotional and physical hardships, anger is a normal emotion when it comes to coping. For seniors and their caregivers, feelings of anger and frustration can be felt in decision-making situations and everyday tasks related to aging. Identifying how you cope with these emotions can help you devise strategies for managing anger in healthier ways.

How to Cope With Caregiver Anger:

How does a caregiver break the cycle of negative thinking? Guiding your older loved one through difficult situations that seemed easy a few years ago is tough on family and caregivers mentally and physically. Often, it’s easy for a caregiver to become “stuck” in a pessimistic mindset while caring for their senior. To overcome this mindset, here are a few tips from Tina Tessina, PH.D.

Identify the source of anger

Instead of looking outward and blaming external circumstances for your anger, try looking inward. Examining how you interpret frustrating situations and express your emotions will help you learn how to handle your anger in a healthier manner.

Understand your anger style

  • Reactive anger feels like a tantrum or a “quick fuse” goes off during intense situations.
  • Volcanic anger feels like you are building up frustration until you “blow.”
  • Passive aggressive anger feels like everything is fine externally, but internally you are holding a grudge.
  • Projecting anger feels like putting your frustrations on to something else like a person or even a pet.

Rewind the Negative

When you release anger towards a loved one or your senior directly, rewinding the tape helps to bring positivity back into the situation. Thinking about what you could have done differently will help you handle future situations more productively.

Count to Ten

When something upsets you, mentally taking a step back and counting to 10 helps prevent knee-jerk reactions and allows you extra time to decide how to handle the situation.
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How to Cope With Aging Anger

Aging is difficult to endure physically, mentally, and emotionally, which is why agitation is a natural emotion for older adults. Failing health, a changing body, and grief are major life changes that cause natural reactions like sadness and anger. Seniors may exhibit for a whole host of reasons, however any sudden changes in a senior’s behavior are a cause for concern.

Things to Look Out For:

  • Underlying Health Problems: Infections like UTIs can cause unusual behavioral symptoms in seniors that are not common in younger individuals. If a loved one begins acting uncharacteristically angry or upset, it’s important to contact their doctor for a check-up. A study published by the APA found that higher levels of anger were associated with inflammation and ill health in the oldest participants (aged 80 and above), but not the youngest ones (59-79 years).
  • Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Outbursts are common with many kinds of dementia and at various stages throughout the progression of the condition. Environmental factors can also add to tantrums. Is your loved one overstimulated in a large crowd? Do they feel lost? Try to understand their source of anger to avoid these situations.
  • Mental Health Concerns: Emotional fits could be the result of anxiety or depression over one’s worsening health. These conditions are more likely to contribute to agitated behaviors in patients with underlying dementia, partly because such persons have an impaired ability to obtain help for pain or discomfort through coherent conversation.
  • Prescription Medications: Certain prescription medications can have negative side effects or interact with one another, causing mood swings and irritability.
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How We Can Help

Psych360 provides comprehensive mental health solutions for long-term care communities. We deliver a hybrid of both on-site and telehealth psychiatric and psychological services for your residents. Connect with us at or give us a call at (330) 536-3746 for more information.

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