Caregiving a Grumpy Loved One: 4 Tips to Bring a Smile

December 5, 2009 at 2:45 pm Leave a comment

Remember that lovable but grumpy donkey, Eeyore, in Winnie the Pooh? He always saw the rain clouds, always had something negative to say. While it’s kind of cute in cartoon form, living with a grump can be exhausting–and caregiving is hard enough–it would really help if our loved ones at least tried to be pleasant. What do you do if your dad or mom–or spouse is a grump?

I wrote in my book, Mothering Mother that my mom walked into my kitchen one day and slammed her hand down on the counter and announced, “I’m not happy!” She had a scowl on her face and a look that said, “and what are you going to do about it?’

At that moment I realized that I couldn’t make her happy. I could only make me happy.

So I just smiled and patted her hand offered her a cookie and some Sprite, and went on doing what I was doing.

We simply can’t make anyone feel what they don’t agree to feel. We can’t try to tap dance and stand on our heads to please someone else. Sometimes we just have to let them be–and focus on the one person we can do a little something about–ourselves.

Four tips to help lift your grumpy person’s mood:

  • Make a joke, even a sarcastic one. It shocks them, takes them off guard–and it lets them know that you’re not going into the gotta-try-to-please-you place.
  • Avoid and distract. These are two useful tools  when dealing with an Alzheimer’s patient. When the start obsessing (where am I, I want to go home, who are you, why am I here) it’s best to ignore those comments–or their grumpiness–and try to get their interest focused elsewhere. Talk about what’s coming up that day, ask a question (even if they can’t answer–do you know where your shoes are?) Distraction is a wonderful, but  temporary tool.
  • Be firm. Say in a firm voice, “Stop griping. That’s enough.” If they don’t, walk out of the room. Let them see that you’re not going to participate in their grumpiness. But do know that if your loved one is in mid to late Alzheimer’s, their reasoning abilities are shot. They can’t remember from moment to moment so telling them to stop won’t work five minutes from now. This only works early on.
  • Rise above the grump. Hum a tune, turn on the tv, put on your iPod and headphones. Go somewhere else in your mind. You may have to cook, clean, change sheets, bathe, run errands with your little curmudgeon by your side, but in your mind, you can be Aspen skiing, or Paris shopping, or simply making your grocery and menu list.

If your loved one ash been a bit our a sour-puss all his/her life, they’re probably not going to change, so don’t think you’re going to change them permanently. As a caregiver, we have to choose to be kind, firm, easy, funny (sarcastic humor and dark humor counts) and patient–even when they’re not.

Entry filed under: brain fitness, caring for parents, elder care, family caregiving. Tags: , , , .

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Hi, I'm Carol O'Dell. This blog will include stories and lessons I've learned while caring for my mom, and now as I speak to caregivers around the country. I hope to offer suggestions, ideas and insights that will help others.

While this blog is supported by Dakim Brain Fitness, I’m not blogging to promote the Dakim company or products. Instead, I’m writing about how caring and being cared for affects your life and your family. My hope is that this blog gives you a place to learn, reflect, gain new perspective to make it another day.

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