Caregivers Perspective - Dealing with Difficulty

The effect of aging on personality is difficult to predict. Some people become less demanding and more forgiving with the passage of time. They are at peace with their own failings and more understanding of the failures of others. They are less wary and defensive, more open to new experiences, and more appreciative of kindness and beauty.

If your loved one fits in this category, you're very fortunate. The experience of caregiving will draw you even closer together, strengthening the bond of love and respect you feel for each other.

But for others, aging brings personality changes that can make the lives of their caregivers more stressful and the act of providing care more difficult. Some seniors become withdrawn, while others become more controlling and demanding. In these situations, it is only natural for caregivers to feel anger and frustration and to consider their best efforts to be ineffective and unappreciated.

As a caregiver, it is important for you to acknowledge that, in some cases, you will not be successful in getting your loved one to change. A person who has been standoffish or stubborn all their life is not suddenly going to become warm or cooperative. In this circumstance, the best you can do is reexamine your commitment to being a caregiver and, if you decide to continue, resolve to accept their behavior while moderating your expectations. Most of all, you need to acknowledge the fact that no one can make another person change their behavior if they don't want to—and that you are not responsible if, despite your best efforts, your loved one is unhappy.

In many other instances, however, you can make a real difference. Diseases like Alzheimer's can transform a sweet-tempered, caring individual into an angry, violent stranger. Your doctor may recommend medications that can alleviate the mood-altering symptoms of this disease. The daily physical pain and debility of an illness can lead other people to depression. Here again, you can work with your physician to intervene.

There are also steps that you can take to build bridges to your loved one. There is usually some trigger that causes people to act differently—the finality of a diagnosis, the loss of control over their lives, or the inability to pursue interests they loved. Showing that you understand and, most importantly, demonstrating that you empathize can make a big difference.

Ironically, the thing that most people fear is being alone, but so often their behavior only increases their isolation. If you are patient and loving, you do have a chance to gain their trust and provide the comfort they so desperately need.

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A support group can help you gain some perspective on caring for a loved one who is difficult and provide insight on steps you can take to preserve your own equilibrium.