Causes of Negative Thinking: How to Help Your Elder Loved One

It can be challenging to care for someone who frequently points out negative aspects of a situation. While any of us can be susceptible to viewing things in a negative light, the physical and mental challenges that come with aging can also intensify the likelihood of negative thoughts. If your senior loved one is becoming progressively more negative as they age, it may be due to diminished health, increased isolation, boredom, or other factors. Here are some ways to help you cope with elderly negative thinking.

How to Deal with Negative Elderly Loved Ones

Spend Quality Time Together. As an individual gets older, loneliness can begin to affect them in a deeper way. Sometimes they are unable to participate in social functions as much as they used to, which can lead to feelings of isolation. Additionally, it may be difficult for someone who is aging to admit that they need help. This can also cause feelings of loneliness, frustration, or insecurity, which in turn creates a negative mindset.

Dr. Barry J. Jacobs, clinical psychologist and author, explains how the need for control over their lives can also cause seniors to experience feelings of helplessness or loneliness. “As a way of preserving our independence and our sense of self-identity, many of us resist accepting help as we age,” he says. “It is as if we believe the old adage that if we give an inch, others will take a yard. In other words, if we allow others to do anything for us, then we lose who we've been and are rendered helpless again.”

To help your aging loved one navigate feelings of loneliness, try designating certain days of the week or month for you to spend quality time with them. You can suggest doing something active together such as going on a walk or performing simple exercises together. Or you can take them to a fun activity such as a painting or cooking class. Whatever you choose to do, spending quality time with your loved one will make them feel supported and help boost their happiness. If the senior in your life knows they can count on consistent time to spend with you, it can go a long way in reducing negativity and feelings of sadness.

Put Yourself in their Shoes. Although this may sound like an obvious piece of advice, demonstrating to a senior loved one that you empathize with their situation can have a tremendous impact. It is easy to have the frustration of dealing with negative parents overwhelm you and overshadow the desire to show compassion. In these situations, it can be helpful to take a deep breath and reflect on the changes or fears your loved one might be experiencing. They could be trying to cope with pain or discomfort as a result of declining physical health, loss of family members and friends, or loss of their independence. Although your loved one should not be taking frustration out on you, it is important to remember their negativity is usually not a result of anything you have done, but rather a reflection of dealing with difficult changes in their life. Acknowledging this fact can keep things in perspective and help you manage negative situations with your aging loved one.

Spend time in Nature. Studies have shown that spending time outside can decrease negative emotions such as anger or depression. Try going for a walk or enjoying a picnic in the park to expose your loved one to some sunshine and time outdoors. You can also help the senior in your life start a garden or work on their yard. Planting flowers or vegetables can be an excellent way to ensure your loved one spends time outside daily while providing them with an enjoyable hobby in the process. If their mobility is limited, you can even spend time together sitting on a front porch or watching children play outside their window. All these activities help to promote a positive mindset and combat negativity.

Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries are also wonderful “brain power” foods. They contain a lot of flavonoids, a group of antioxidants that protects the brain from damage. The antioxidants in berries can also strengthen communication between brain cells and reduce inflammation throughout the body. Enjoy berries in a smoothie, fruit salad or even as a simple snack to help improve memory and boost your brain.

Additional foods you can eat to help protect your brain include kale, whole grains, broccoli, dark chocolate, nuts and avocado.

Reach out for Support. When your loved one is continually negative, it can cause you to become stressed, take on their anxiety and ultimately adopt a negative mindset yourself. To avoid this happening, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. There are many people you can speak to for advice, including doctors, friends of your parents, or a professional counselor. Additionally, there are several support groups, both online and in-person, that can help you come up with strategies to effectively copy with your parent’s negativity.

If you feel like the negativity of your aging loved one is taking a toll on your mental or physical health, a caregiver can also step in and help. Employing a caregiver to assist your loved one, whether it’s long-term or simply for a few hours, can allow you to take a step back and take care of yourself. It is important to prioritize your wellbeing as well as that of your loved one. A caregiver can help bridge that gap and ensure that you both receive the care you need.

To learn more about how our respite care, companion care, and additional services can assist you or your loved one, contact us today.

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