It can be frustrating when your aging parents seem to become grumpy or irritable. You wonder if you did something wrong. You worry about whether your dad is going to be cranky from now on. You might stress over whether his bad moods are a sign of Alzheimer’s disease. If you find yourself in this boat with your aging spouse or parent, here is some information on personality changes in seniors.
When You Should Worry About Personality Changes in an Older Adult
If your aging loved one becomes moodier than usual and there does not seem to be a reason, people close to her should pay attention and try to find out what is causing the difference in mood. She might be in pain with arthritis or another uncomfortable medical condition. She could be upset, because she is struggling financially after a lifetime of hard work.
Her medication might be affecting her mood. Sometimes the answer is a simple thing like drinking more water. Dehydration can cause headaches, which can make the sufferer irritable. Keep track of her liquid intake and adjust accordingly.
There are times, however, when emotional disturbances can indicate a more serious problem, like an undiagnosed medical problem, a medication reaction or the early stages of dementia. If you cannot find a reason for your loved one’s moodiness, you might want to go along with her to the doctor.
Grumpy Older People are an Inaccurate Stereotype
Many people assume that every person over the age of 50 yells “Get off my lawn!” to all passersby. In reality, older people are no more likely to be cranky than people of any other age. In fact, researchers say that overall seniors tend to be happier than younger people. Over time, many people tend to remember the happy experiences and the memories of daily annoyances fade.
When seniors retire, they no longer have to deal with the daily hassles of commuting to work, dealing with difficult co-workers and getting paid a lower salary than their less intelligent boss to do a job they hate. Instead of having all the work and stress of raising their children, the aging adult gets to visit the grandchildren, getting all the enjoyment and none of the work.
It is easy to see why many people become happier as they get older. Perhaps the stereotype of grumpy older adults, is just a creation of our ageist society that does not value its elders.
Why Some Seniors Appear to be Cranky
Let’s say that your dad was soft-spoken when you were growing up. He did not criticize or complain. All of your friends wished he was their dad. Now that you are grown, he speaks his mind and lets people know when he does not like something. He might not be irritable. He might just be less concerned about what people think of him. Many people reach a point, at which they realize that they do not have to try to please everyone.
Lack of Accommodations Can Make Older Adults Irritable
It used to be fun to go out to eat with your mom. However, now she is so disagreeable, that you wonder if it is worth the effort. Try to think of it from her perspective. She had to struggle to get out of the car and make her way with a walker or cane through a crowded restaurant, hoping she did not fall and break a bone, when a child darted in front of her.
With all the background noise, it can be hard for her to follow the conversation at the table or hear what the server is saying. Without bright lighting, she might not be able to read the menu. Rather than focus on her behavior, you should realize that our society makes few accommodations for seniors.
AARP. “The Truth About Grumpy Old Men (and Women).” (accessed February 28, 2019) https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2018/grumpy-old-men-myths.html