Color & Control:

How to Deal with Controlling Behaviour

As people age, it’s not uncommon for personalities to change and that may include developing more demanding behaviour.

By Kurt Kazanowski

Challenging, aggressive or grumpy moods can be the result of medication, pain, the frustrations of having difficulty doing things that were once easy, or changing family dynamics. While this can be trying and unpleasant to deal with as a caregiver, there are approaches you can take to help alleviate such situations.

Grant the little victories.

People need to feel they still have control, so allow for autonomous decisions where possible. If you are going out to eat as a family, let the person in your care select the restaurant. Ask their opinion about important life matters and include them in conversations. Help identify a creative outlet where they can to channel controlling energy into projects.

Meds can change personalities.

Medications alter the chemical balances in our brains, which can greatly affect mood and behaviour patterns. Make note of any personality changes observed from when your loved one began taking their medication particularly within the first two-week, one-month and three-month spans. If you suspect these changes coincide with the new medication, consult with a healthcare provider about options.

Pain can make people act out.

When a senior is unwell and their body is in pain, it can cause them to lash out at those aroundthem. If your loved one is doing this, offer to find treatment in the form of therapy or medication. Occupational therapy can be a great tool with which to overcome painful patterns of movementand gain some relief.

Consider family dynamics.

Was your aging loved one always dictating how things were going to be done? They might still be trying to exude this authority. If you are a child and the primary caregiver, your parent might still be trying to act on this instinct. Controlling behaviours are considered abuse if taken too far. Talk with your parent about how their actions make you feel it can be a time for healing.

Use positive-reinforcement patterns.

Offer kindness and try to discuss the matter. If you receive a disrespectful reply, leave and return at a more appropriate time (just be sure your loved one is safe). It may sound harsh, but it is better than scolding them or getting upset yourself.

Talk, if they are willing.

Sometimes  people lash out when they want someone to give them some more attention and care. Ask how you can help. Speak with sincerity and listen. It may be a simple case of needing to vent.

Bring in the back-ups.

If you are overwhelmed and caring for an aggressive person who is too much for you, consider assisted living and nursing homes. With such arrangements, a professional caregiver will deal with all daily tasks and ensure your loved one’s well-being, which allows you to take the personal family member role, and to visit your loved one.

Kurt Kazanowski MS, RN, CHE, is a hospice and senior care expert, and author of A Son’s Journey: Taking Care of Mom and Dad. He is also a consultant, speaker and coach in the areas of aging, and hospice and homecare.

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