Family Caregiver FAQ: How Do I Handle Angry Parents?

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Updated: February 28, 2022


Anger and angry behaviors can be frustrating, but the more you know about the causes and potential solutions, the better you can respond.

When you are an adult child of aging parents, you can find yourself in situations you haven’t had to face before. For many family caregivers, handling angry parents who lash out about care or during care can be challenging and frustrating. If you are wondering how to appropriately respond when your aging parent is angry, we have a few tips for you to consider.

Why Anger Happens

Before you can address angry parents, it can be helpful to understand where the anger is coming from. This is especially helpful if your parents have never really expressed anger toward you as you were growing up. 

As your parents age, they can become angrier due to a few reasons. The first can be personality changes or impulse-control challenges that can come with cognitive decline or other neurological diseases. They might also be angry due to a lack of control or due to grief over losing people, independence, or time. They can also feel angry if they are unable to express their feelings of frustration, sadness, or worry.

Coping with Angry Parents

It can be startling when a parent becomes angry during care, or any other time. However, if you know a few tactics for coping with the situation when it arises, you can ensure you and your loved one stay safe and your relationship remains intact.

Look for anger triggers

The best way to cope with angry parents is to avoid the anger response when possible. You can find potential anger triggers by observing what happened prior to your loved one becoming angry or acting out. Then, you can work to avoid these triggers in the hopes of decreasing the angry response.

Are they angry about the meals you prepare? Perhaps they are already too hungry. Pushing up their mealtime by 30 minutes might make a positive difference.

Are they angry about the way you take to drive them to the doctor? Let them choose the route, even if it takes a bit longer or is not your preference.

Provide more choice

Anger can stem from a loss of control. You might find significant success by making sure you are offering your aging parent choices often. For example, let them choose the menu for the week before you go grocery shopping, the clothes they wear for the day, or the time they take their shower during the day.

A professional caregiver can offer rest for you as well as a change of face for your loved one.

Try a change of face

Sometimes, angry parents are more likely to lash out on their loved ones, like an adult child. If you are looking for a new approach, sometimes a new face can do wonders. Consider enlisting the support of a home care agency or a friendly neighbor to take care of a few tasks with your loved one. Not only do you get a break from your busy task list, your parents might respond with less anger if a new person is arriving to take care of it.

Take a break

Remember, you can always step out of the room if you are reaching an emotional breaking point. As long as your loved one is safe, step out of the area to take a deep breath and recenter yourself before returning. The break in the interaction can reset the stage for both of you, giving each of you a chance to turn things around.

Keep their doctor informed

Personality changes and impulse-control challenges can be a symptom of different types of dementia as well as other issues like poor pain management. If you notice your loved one is angry more than usual, it’s time to talk about it with their doctor to make sure there is not an undiagnosed, underlying condition.

Get Help for Yourself

It is difficult to continue to happily care for angry parents. If you don’t get the support and relief you need, you can end up resenting your loved ones, experiencing complications due to caregiver burnout, or both. 

Talk with your physician

Be candid with your doctor during your next appointment about your caregiving role and struggles. Your doctor can provide referrals for local support groups or other resources to keep you feeling healthy.

Focus on sleep

Operating on little sleep is not helpful for anyone, including the people you care for. Do your best to implement consistent bedtime routines that will help you fall asleep, and stay asleep, easily.

Eat and drink well

Your body and brain will be able to cope with trying situations better with the right fuel. Ensure you are eating nutritious foods and staying hydrated daily.

Watch your coping mechanisms

Be sure your coping mechanisms do not include drinking too much, taking drugs, or other damaging habits. If you need help, reach out to a trusted friend, family member, or physician.

Dealing with angry parents is complex, and it can be frustrating for everyone involved. However, you can find relief by making sure you have the support you need.