Mood swings and abrupt behavioral changes are fairly common in seniors, but they can still be challenging for family caregivers to witness and manage.
It can be frustrating to feel like your elderly parent or loved one is never satisfied or happy, or to feel as though their attitude could change on a dime at any second. For many family caregivers, it can also be difficult to see an older relative not behave the same way that they did when they were younger.
As a loving family member, you may be wondering if it’s normal for seniors to experience mood swings, or if these behavioral changes are a “yellow flag” for something more serious. While it’s only natural to expect someone’s personality to evolve as they grow older, bear in mind that abrupt mood swings can often be an outward sign that your senior loved one is experiencing an internal change.
What factors may be behind your senior family members’ changing moods, and what can you do to help? Here are five common reasons that an elderly adult may be experiencing mood swings and behavioral shifts:
Depression and Anxiety
If your parent or senior loved one is displaying mood swings, it could be a sign that they are experiencing depression, anxiety, or another mental health concern.
According to a groundbreaking report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 20% of adults aged 55 or older have experienced some type of mental health concern, yet only about one in three receive treatment. In that same vein, roughly 5% of seniors 65 and older report having depression currently, and more than 10% report having a diagnosis of depression at some point. Similarly, nearly 8% of people over 65 say that they have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. Another prominent research study notes that “mood disorders are frequent in old age and their prevalence is increasing with population aging.”
You may wish to talk frankly with your senior loved one about how they’re doing. Many older adults find improvements from talk therapy, or a medication regimen. In other cases, your senior loved one may benefit from getting to spend more one-on-one time with someone they like and trust, such as a family member or a senior companion.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease
According to the Alzheimer’s Society of Great Britain, mood swings, irritability, paranoia, and extreme emotions can all be warning signs for dementia, including Alzheimer’s. If you feel that your loved one may be experiencing some of the early yellow flags for dementia or cognitive decline, don’t hesitate to step in and seek medical help.
As a family caregiver, be sure to stay alert for other pressing symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s, such as difficulty communicating, short term memory lapses, trouble remembering details, confusion, trouble concentrating, frequently misplacing items, and so on.
According to a report from TIME magazine, roughly 9% of Americans 65 and older have some form of dementia. If indeed dementia or Alzheimer’s are the driving force behind your parent’s changing moods, remember that these conditions can be treated and managed, but it’s important to act quickly to get your aging loved one the support and care they need.
Could your loved one be lashing out emotionally because of an internal condition? Keep in mind that emotional changes, including mood swings, could be the result of a physical cause. For instance, millions of older adults cope with chronic pain. For seniors, it can be draining, frustrating, and upsetting to have to deal with chronic pain or a physical malady. Your loved one’s mood changes could be caused by them reacting out of pain or exasperation to a medical condition that you may not even be able to see.
In other cases, severe mood swings in seniors could be due to personal frustration with their changing bodies and lifestyles. Many older adults get frustrated when they realize that they can’t move the way used to, or perceive that they’re losing some of their independence.
If your loved one is reacting to a chronic pain or illness, be sure to help them seek out medical treatment. In other cases, seniors may benefit from having a professional companion or caregiver on hand, to assist them with managing pain while accomplishing activities of daily living, such as walking, doing chores, or using the bathroom.
Loneliness or Isolation
Social isolation and loneliness are quite common in seniors, for any number of reasons. As we get older, friends and family may become less accessible. Similarly, difficulty with driving can make it harder to keep up with social commitments. We could go on.
The important thing to keep in mind is that social isolation and loneliness can lead to numerous adverse health effects for elderly people. Loneliness can be a contributing factor for depression and chronic illness, and can lead to cognitive decline over time.
If your senior loved one is experiencing mood swings or having trouble interacting with people, they could be experiencing some of the health effects of social isolation. In other cases, your senior loved one simply may be frustrated or irritated with themselves, as they feel that they are “out of practice” or no longer used to interacting with people.
Fortunately, there are many ways you can help make things easier for your aging loved one. If they’re having difficulties with groups, try to focus on spending time with them one on one. Your senior loved one may also benefit from getting to share meals and go on outings with a patient, empathetic, and skilled senior companion.
Reactions to Medication
Many older adults tend to take medicines, including over the counter treatments, for different health conditions. Keep in mind that different medications can have side effects including attitude changes and mood swings. Similarly, different drugs can have negative interactions if taken together.
If you’re noticing behavioral changes, including mood swings, in your senior loved one, do some research into the medicines and treatments they’re taking. Look for side effect warnings, and don’t hesitate to bring up your concerns with your loved one’s doctor and pharmacist.
Also, keep an eye out to make sure your loved one is taking their medications in the right dosage, and using all medicines as directed. Medication abuse or mismanagement can also be a contributing factor for behavioral changes and mood swings.
Companions for Seniors Is Here to Help Make Caregiving Easier
If you have a loved one that you believe could benefit from the assistance of a professional caregiver, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the experts at Companions for Seniors.
We’re locally owned in the Chicago area, with clients in the city and suburbs, and we’re here to field any questions you may have about any aspect of caring for your aging loved one.
Our companions are trained, bonded, and insured, and can help you and your family shoulder some of the burden of caring for the senior in your life. We help provide seniors with a higher quality of life, while also offering respite and peace of mind for a family caregiver who might need some support. We offer personalized care plans for each of our clients. Our caregivers can assist with activities of daily living, housekeeping, driving services, and more, all on a flexible schedule that works for you.
Have any questions? Want to get in touch? Don’t hesitate to give us a call, or fill out our contact form, available here.