Eight Tips For When Mom or Dad Has an Extreme Reaction

When your mom or dad has a catastrophic reaction to events or becomes uncharacteristically upset or excited, it can be unnerving. You are not sure what to do or how to handle this new behaviour.

Sometimes the cause is obvious. They are in discomfort or pain and they lash out. Other times their reduced language abilities cause frustration or anger and they are overwhelmed with emotion. Whatever the cause, it can flood you with emotions as well, and not usually good ones.

In this post, I’m going to give you eight tips that can help you reduce uncharacteristic or extremely emotional behaviour.


Tip #1 — Create Security

Emotional outbursts may have an underlying catalyst of fear and lack of security. Your mom or dad may be very anxious. They may fear being abandoned. You will need to reassure them verbally that they will be okay and that they will be taken care of. Emotional reassurance is important and can go a long way to reducing anxiety.


Tip #2 – Maintain Personal Belongings

It is inevitable that downsizing means that some personal belongings will not come with them when they move. This can be a source of grieving and bitterness. Invite them to be a part of the process in choosing what goes with them and try and bring many personal items. Pictures, clocks, and special Knick knacks can make their new home feel like home. Having items up on the walls can create a sense of home without creating tripping hazards.

Surrounding them with their personal objects also helps visitors or staff know something about your mom or dad and gives them a point from which conversation can flow. This can enhance a sense of belonging to the place where they now live.


Tip #3 — Limit Stimuli

Sometimes emotional outbursts may be a reaction to feeling overwhelmed. Limit the number of stimuli in the environment. Taking your mom or dad to a busy shopping mall or grocery store may be more than they can handle. Christmas, with the additional lights and sounds, can really add to the sensory overload and cause outbursts.


Tip #4 — Create a Predictable Schedule

They may be confused about their schedule and feel unsure of their routine. Create security for them by emphasizing predictability. Try as much as possible to have the same things happen at the same time. They will draw comfort and security from the routine.   Transitions are difficult to process and increase anxiety. Try and create as much emotional support and comfort as possible as you move through a transition.


Tip #5 — Maintain Their Social Network

Another reason for outbursts may be loneliness or boredom. Help them maintain social relationships by facilitating visits with family and friends. Also ensure that they have meaningful activities to keep them engaged.


Tip #6 — Check for an Infection or Pain

If you mom or dad is experiencing changing emotional behaviour, check to see if there is an infection or if they are in pain. Urinary tract infections are a common cause of uncharacteristic behaviour, so check with their doctor.


Tip #7 — Limit Television

Television can create a great deal of tension when it is moving too fast for them to process.  The news or the show may include elements that are upsetting to them. Choose carefully what they are exposed to. The television may also provide a point of stress when they are trying to turn it on or off or trying to find a channel. Covering some of the buttons and labeling the power button is an option for dealing with this problem.


Tip #8 — Are They Sleeping Well?

Check out their sleep environment to ensure it is conducive to a good night’s sleep. Create a bedtime routine for them. Make sure their room is cool and have them follow a regular pattern — brush teeth, use hand cream, read a page of a book — whatever makes sense for them. This will cue their body that it is time to sleep.


Creating a serene and peaceful environment is important for both of you as you journey together.

Do you need help in the area of Dementia Care?   Check out this available resource:   Fit Minds Family Caregiver Program



As one of the founders and creative minds behind Fit Minds Inc., Nicole has been creating cognitive stimulation therapy programming since 2010. An experienced curriculum developer, teacher and coach, she brings a wealth of experience to creating and teaching the Fit Minds Program. Nicole has trained hundreds of professional and family caregivers who have touched the lives of thousands of individuals living with a cognitive impairment. Nicole also holds a law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School, a Master’s in Law from Queen’s University specializing in Negotiations and is a Certified Professional Consultant on Aging.

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