As caregivers, we provide support and guidance to people when they need it most. Whether you work for a care facility or provide care to a loved one, it can be a difficult job with an occasional bad day. Some seniors in care are prone to negative or difficult behavior but caregivers must still provide quality care. Regardless of the reasoning behind their negative behaviors, there are a few things caregivers can do to help cope in harder times.


Try to Understand

Each person experiences aging differently and it’s not uncommon for some to experience personality changes.  These changes can be the result of a number of factors, including cognitive decline, depression, or stress. The first step for a caregiver is deciding if this behavior is out of character. As people age, underlying personality traits or family conflicts can re-emerge to cause issues in caregiver relationships. Others experience changes that may need to be evaluated by a healthcare professional. Talk to others to get a baseline for their behavior and decide whether the changes need a more serious intervention.


Fight Fire with Compassion

Although caring for a difficult loved one is no picnic, growing older is tough on everyone. Many have lost friends or family, endured illness or injury, and felt the pain of declining independence; many are in need of recognition and empathy. Approaching problematic behavior with empathy means seeing from their perspective and responding in a way that reflects how you would prefer to be treated. Communicating empathy generates a sense of respect for their experience instead of simply offering feelings of support.


Don’t Take It Personally

Caregivers often see the best and worst in the people they care for. It isn’t uncommon for caregivers to endure defiance, aggression, or even abuse. Unfortunately, these moments often happen because you’re considered a safe target or they simply cannot control their actions. Consider building an “emotional suit of armor” that shields you and allows you to focus on what’s important. Pushing personal feelings aside and taking a moment to ‘walk in their shoes’ will ultimately help you cope in the moment and better understand where they are coming from.


Take Care of Yourself

Remember to feel compassion for yourself as well. No matter how much you love someone; there will be days where you do not enjoy providing care. Truthfully, you can’t deliver quality care when you haven’t taken care of yourself so remember to take to time to relax. Each person handles self-care differently but time for hobbies and friends goes a long way. Designate a friend you can call during a stressful moment. Taking a walk around the block to vent will help you cope in the moment. In more serious situations, consider using an adult day care a few times a week to give both of you a break.


It’s important to think of coping in the moment, as well as long term. Outside of caregiving, consider individual counseling or a support group to share your experiences. Some caregivers had strained relationships with their loved one before they became caregivers, these venues will help you work through any issues or emotions that arise. Caregiving is an enormous responsibility with physical and emotional consequences. Take time to relax, enjoy hobbies, and schedule time to have fun!


For additional health information, visit the main Health and Conditions page or learn more about senior care options on the main Assisted Living page.

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About the Author: Victoria K. Stickley is a copywriter, editor, and senior content manager based in the Dallas area. Her graduate education in counseling and research has helped immensely in her writing as well as the care she provides for her grandparents. She currently provides support and resources to senior care websites as she learns and experiences senior care first-hand.