Why Are They So Grumpy?

May 21, 2013

grumpymanAs it turns out, getting old is another developmental stage. Remember those stages, infancy, toddlerhood, pre-school, school-age, adolescence, and so on? The tasks of those developmental stages include, learning to trust, becoming independant, learning to take initiative, working to accomplish a task and identifying your role in life. End of life is a continuation of those stages, it is a time of reflection. Elders need to look back on life and feel a sense of fulfillment. It they take the time to review their lives and are satisfied with their accomplishments they gain a sense of peace and wisdom. The inability to take the time to acknowledge those successes can result in regret, bitterness and despair.

You, on the other hand, are trying to deal with your elder’s changing needs, working with them to make life more manageable. There are bills to be organized, grocery shopping excursions to make and measures taken to insure their safety. There are health related decisions to consider and medical appointments to keep. So why, instead of listening to your well intentioned suggestion to install safety bars in the bathroom are they talking about the time they tiled the shower themselves while you were a toddler and underfoot? It is frustrating when you press them for answers and they snap at your questions. The discussion ends with hurt feelings all around. What’s going on here?  They want to tell stories about the past while you are trying to deal with problems in the present, not to mention your own work, home and children are waiting for your attention.

Why are they so grumpy? Think about it, elders are reviewing their lives and thinking about what parts they want to leave as their legacy. They are looking at events that have occurred, accomplishments made and families raised in their lifetime. Passing on valuable life lessons or family history is paramount to them now. To be pressed to make a decision about where to put a safety bar is of little interest or importance. It is frustrating for them to be ignored or dismissed, after all, this is important work they are doing.

Fear may be playing a role here too. Your elder may be worried about what will happen if they can’t manage any more. Will they have to go to a nursing home and be separated from familiar surroundings and those they love? There is also a need to maintain some control over choices that will impact them until the end of their lives.

What can be done to help this situation?

  • Listen to your elder. Let them talk about those times in their lives. They are letting you know what events were important to them.
  • Don’t push, hurry conversaton or be disrespectful.
  • Be patient. It may take many conversations for your elder to become comfortable expressing their hopes, fears and wishes for the future. These conversations offer a great opportunity for the two of you to get to know each other better as well.
  • If all else fails and you still cannot maintain a positive conversation, call on a respected friend, pastor, relative, doctor, or anyone you feel may be able to understand the situation and better communicate with your elder.

What are some of your experiences? Tell us what has worked for you?

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