Learn How To Respond to Upsetting Remarks or Actions


When the older adult or the person helping or both are stressed, situations can become more difficult.


People who are upset, angry or in pain might say or do things that hurt others. People who are having trouble communicating their needs or feelings might act out of frustration.


Simply asking others for help can be difficult emotionally. Older adults who need help might be feeling:

  • Stressed, scared or depressed

  • Uncomfortable with others helping them

  • Frustrated about what they can’t do

  • Upset that they’re losing control over some things

  • Embarrassed about their health conditions or needs

  • Grief at the loss of loved ones or of parts of their own lives

  • Fearful about worsening health or financial problems

  • Anxious about change or uncertainty

Some medications, health conditions and symptoms can affect how people treat others. Health professionals can figure out whether personality changes are caused by medical problems.


People living with dementia, their family and friends often struggle with difficult emotions. They may have feelings of denial, anger, guilt, anxiety, sadness, resentment or frustration.


People who help older adults can respond to upsetting remarks or actions by:

  • Not taking it personally

  • Not blaming themselves or others

  • Encouraging the older adult to talk about feelings

  • Thinking about why the older adult is feeling that way

  • Asking the older adult what would make things better

  • Not trying to control the older adult’s behavior

  • Being flexible and willing to let small stuff go

  • Taking a break if things get tense

  • Looking for patterns, like the older adult being agitated later in the day

  • Trying to avoid the situations, words and actions that trigger negative reactions

Talking to others who help older adults or joining support groups can also help people find ways to deal with upsetting situations.