Some Caregiving Days Are Worse Than Others, Particularly When Caree Is Having A Bad Day
We all have bad days. Unfortunately, when you are a caregiver to someone, their bad day becomes your bad day. It is really difficult not to let the bad energy alter your mood, even if you started off in a great mood. So, what do you do if you are a caregiver to someone who is a difficult person, or just having a really bad day so they’re taking it out on the closes target (you)?
Well, if your caree is normally a good natured person, you can remind yourself that he or she is just having a bad day and it will pass. It doesn’t make the day go any easier, but coming into the situation with understanding and compassion will help slow down any possible escalation of their bad mood.
My staff and I had this issue frequently. We’d arrive at a customer’s house and everything was doom and gloom and terrible. Nothing anyone did was right. It was frustrating, but part of the job as a caregiver. The difference is, we weren’t family and we got to leave at the end of our shift, whether their mood changed or not. It can be hard for family caregivers who can’t leave. Additionally, we are usually at our worst with our loved ones since we feel like we can treat them poorly and be forgiven.
Helping Caregivers Understand Causes of A Caree Bad Day
If your aging parent is usually a positive person, or normally even tempered, a bad day can be hard to deal with since it isn’t the norm. Deep down, you kind of want them to snap out of it. But remember, we all have bad days and they are going through so much more socially and emotionally than you see on the outside. Here are some common reasons they may be having a difficult day.
- Pain: Pain can put anyone in a bad mood, trust me. There are days when I catch myself snapping at my husband and kids for things that are really not a big deal but I’m in a lot of pain so everything is magnified.
- Under the Weather/Unwell: Whether your aging parent is having a bad side effect from a medication or is just feeling “off,” it can put them in a bad mood, particularly if they were previously healthy. While medication provides many benefits and regulates serious medical conditions, don’t discount the side effects. Some common side effects are headaches, nausea or dizziness. It’s not fun to go through the day feeling any of those things.
- Lonely/Sad About Current Situation: Think about how full your life is – maybe you’re thinking it’s too full. You may work, you may live with a spouse and you may have children in or out of the home and you are a caregiver to your aging parent. You might also have friends that you see regularly. Now, look at your parent’s current social situation. It isn’t surprising that they can get down about their social situation. While you may long for quiet, they’ve been in quiet for years. It can get very lonely.
- Struggles with New Social Position: Your aging parents used to be the family leaders. People came to them for advice and respected their views. Does that still happen? Are you treating them like a child? It can be very difficult to go from a position of leader to becoming a patient.
- General Bad Day: Let’s face it, we all have bad days. We’re human – so is your aging parent. Maybe they are just having a rough day. They spilled their coffee, they ran out of their favorite breakfast food. Nothing is going right. No one is perfect. We are all entitled to a bad day every now and then.
Caregiver Tips To Dealing With A Caree Bad Day
You know your aging parent best, so don’t try something that you know won’t work on them. While it can be difficult, try not to let their bad day rub off on you. First, it’ll be a really tough day if everyone is in a negative, bad mood. Second, it is better for your overall well-being to maintain a positive mindset. Here are strategies my staff and I used to handle our caregiving client’s bad days.
- Deflect: Sometimes, just changing the subject or bringing up a topic that makes them happy can help your aging parent forget about their bad day. Do they love talking about their grandchildren? Share a photo and give them an update. Do they love talking about their travels? Ask them questions about a favorite trip. This is a particularly successful tactic for caregivers to a person with dementia.
- Brighten Their Day: Is there a special food or beverage treat that your aging parent enjoys? Consider getting them a treat. I had a client with dementia who loved the bread from a particular bakery. Whenever she was having a rough day, I suggested we go to the bakery to pick up a loaf of bread. Sometimes, when I’m particularly stressed or agitated, I drive to the beach. There’s something very calming about being in my happy place.
- Talk It Out: Some people want to vent about their problems. Allow them to vent without offering solutions or pointing out the positives – don’t worry, you can do that later. This is their opportunity to just be heard. They probably already have solutions to their frustrations but just want to voice them. That’s totally acceptable. When my husband and I were first married, I would get frustrated when he tried to solve my problems. I explained that I just needed to vent and only need to hear “that sucks, Kathy” from him. Sometimes we just need a little pity party.
- Give Them Space: Not everyone wants to be pulled out of a bad mood. Sometimes, your aging parent may just need to stew for a bit before feeling better. If I have tried deflecting and brightening a caregiving client’s day and they don’t work, I give them space and come back to chat later. Everyone is entitled to handle their feelings how they see fit.
- Give Yourself Space: You are a caregiver, not a punching bag. If your loved one is lashing out at you as a result of their bad day, give yourself space. Work on a task or activity that keeps you out of their space. Take a walk or take a shower. You may not be able to leave completely, but you also don’t need to be in the fight zone.
Having a bad day or being down in the dumps are perfectly normal emotions. It can be challenging for caregivers since you are sharing a close space and your loved one’s bad day can either feel like your fault or affect your own mood. Remind yourself that your loved one’s bad day is not your fault or your caregiving task to fix.
If you find that your aging parent is regularly down or agitated, you should speak to their doctor. It could be that they are depressed or it could be that their medication is either not working or is making them ill. There are many emotional, physical and social changes that come with aging. Some days they can be tougher to accept. However, if your parent is struggling frequently, you should seek help.