When Grandma Morphs Into Grambo
Elder rage is a common but misunderstood condition in the elderly. It can start out with periodic outbursts over what appear to be simple things, such as throwing out some old newspapers piled in the garage or making a small change in a loved one's daily schedule. It can evolve over time into name calling, yelling, screaming, false accusations, physical aggression, and even being thrown out of the house.
When the first signs of rage in an elderly person appear, it is time to take action--swift action. However, one of the challenges with some raging elders is their ability to put on a public face that is as sweet as pie. It may be a problem convincing medical staff and doctors that the sweet old man or woman they see is not the one to which you have been privy in the home environment.
One of the ways to get proof of an elder's rage behavior is to use a nanny cam with sound in the home. Put it in a discreet place in the living room or kitchen. Test it out to ensure the audio is clear. Make sure that any major discussions are caught on tape so that if an outburst does occur, a physician will be able to review the footage.
Another thing that can be done is to use a voice-activated digital recorder to capture conversations.
In some states it is illegal to record a two-party conversation without both parties' consent. However, this is a case where a caregiver is trying to protect a loved one and get the proper medical treatment for him/her. In addition, this also provides legal protection for the caregiver should an elderly relative try to turn the tables and make false accusations.
If you really think this cannot happen, here is a reality check:
An elderly woman who was somewhat lucid, had an outburst outside of her home and fell. Her son, who was living with her, picked her up from the sidewalk. Worried neighbors who heard the woman shouting and cursing her son, called the police who noticed bruises on the woman which she had sustained in the fall and from being picked up by her son. The son was arrested and went to court; his mother said nothing in his defense. The judge railed against the son who screamed that he had never hurt his mother in his life. Now this son faces a possible four-month jail term and, if convicted, will be permanently labeled an elder abuser. His mother, who was jealous of the son's girlfriend, remarked to her son, "No one can take you away from me now."
Elder rage is a serious issue that may have serious medical and legal ramifications. Ensuring that elders and you as a caregiver get a good night's sleep is one way to combat age-related dementia and caregiver stress, respectively. Consider using room darkening curtains as a sleep aid in your arsenal when caring for an elder with dementia.
By Mary Ruff-King, a caregiver who has experienced the highs and lows, the joys and despair of caregiving, now writes articles related to this subject.