It’s a common problem and a source of some stress and pain for loved ones. As our older friends and family members age, many of them seem to get grumpy, angry, combative – and just plain ornery. What causes someone who was caring and compassionate their entire life suddenly seem impatient and angry – and is there a way to deal with it? Experts believe that there are two basic categories of triggers for these personal changes in the most ornery seniors – those that are physical/hormonal, and those that are situational.

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Why Dad and Mom Have Gotten Ornery

Physical/ Hormonal Causes

From a physical perspective, the changing hormonal levels in men seems to be at least partially responsible for “grumpy old man” syndrome. While a male’s testosterone level stays relatively stable through their 50’s, somewhere around 60 years of age, testosterone production can begin to significantly begin to drop off. The nuances of everyday life suddenly seem to cause irritability, and small occurrences which never bothered them before can seem overwhelmingly invasive.

For both men and women, the feelings of frustration and anger can also originate from frontal temporal dementia. The condition affects the frontal lobe of the brain and disrupts a person’s normal “moral compass – so not only will a normally sweet woman be prone to screaming at someone who tries to help her, but she may also shoplift or begin using foul language – even if those traits never existed before.

Situational Causes

As adults, we spend our entire day taking care of children, juggling work and home, paying the bills, having friendships, running errands – our days are full and we are in control. Imagine now that one by one, your life’s activities drop away. You no longer have family around you. You have lost the ability to work. Your kids insisted that you no longer can drive your own car.

The frustration and sense of loss that aging adults face is real and can be crippling emotionally. They are losing not only their ability to live independently, but to make their own decisions and run their own life. Perhaps their family decided they needed to leave their home and move into assisted living. Perhaps their doctor told them they could no longer eat ice cream. No matter the magnitude of the loss, ornery seniors most often are reacting to the fact that their life is no longer their own – and that makes them angry.

Many seniors are frustrated that they are losing that sense of who they are as an individual.  An ex-athlete whose body has trapped him, or an avid reader whose eyesight has failed have lost a very real part of their identity, and it can cause irritability to say the least. Frustration, pain and sadness can all escape in snide comments or loud temper tantrums. And often, those closest to them are the ones to bear the brunt of the anger.

This is very difficult on loved ones and family, as children see the close relationship they had with their mom disappear. Is there a solution, and a way for ornery seniors to find peace and enjoy their family time again?

  • Ask their physician if there is any medical reason for the outbursts which can be dealt with utilizing medications.
  • Look into natural treatments, such as lavender oils or herbal teas, to help calm their mood.
  • Acknowledge their loss, but offer to help them find a new activity which is enjoyable for them.
  • Identify those things which are still in place – family, friendships, or hobbies – and place emphasis on highlighting those things in their life.

At A Banyan Residence, we strive to provide a compassionate and fulfilling environment for seniors to live and thrive. If your loved one is in need of a new place to call home, we would love to give you a tour of our Venice assisted living or memory care facilities.