Monday, April 29, 2013

I can’t seem to make my elder parent happy in their Senior Facility and it’s stressing me out!

By Bob Gregory

There are a lot of cute little sayings that come to mind when I hear this “cry” from children who have gone out of their way to make their elderly parent happy.  One that comes to mind is “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”!  This saying is very befitting as no one can really be responsible for another person’s happiness.  We can certainly set the stage for another person to be happy, but in the end, it’s up to the individual to find happiness from within and joy from their surroundings. 

Children of elderly parents in a Senior Facility will experience many different emotions ranging from guilt (please read my post “I know a nursing home is the best move for my elderly parent, so why do I feel so guilty?”) to fulfilled or happy to sad.  Most believe these feelings were generated by the move of the parent to a Senior Facility but if you step back, you will realize you have experienced these emotions all of your life when it comes to your parents!  If you are fortunate, and most are, your parent will settle into this new stage of life and will enjoy their Senior Facility.  Hopefully you will feel confident in your decision in choosing the facility and happy that your parent is happy.  But not all of us will be so fortunate, some of us will go out of our way to make sure our parent is happy in their Senior Facility and we will “seem” to fail miserably!  A word of encouragement—“it’s not your fault!”

If you have followed my advice from earlier writings, then you have done your research carefully and you have found a facility that meets your parent’s physical and mental needs.  The facility has competent health care and loving and attentive caregivers.  It will also have fun activities, entertainment and a wonderful cuisine.  So why is your parent unhappy?  Here are some reasons they may be unhappy and they don’t stem from you!

Reasons your parent may be unhappy:

  I always start with the one that should concern all of us the most and that is health or mental issues.  Symptoms of Depression, Dementia or Alzheimer’s may appear as if the individual is just unhappy.  As I often advise, get your parent tested to make sure their unhappiness is not a symptom of a mental or even a physical condition.  Medications can also cause a person to seem unhappy.  A medical cause may actually be the easiest to identify but the most difficult to fix.  Ease your stress and your conscience by having your parent evaluated!

English: lonely, unhappiness sp: tristeza, des...
English: lonely, unhappiness sp: tristeza, desânimo, desgosto (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  Your parent may be stubborn and unwilling to accept this new stage of life.  Not everyone ages gracefully so don’t expect your parent to be complacent about growing older.  Their anger and frustration with this new stage of life may very well manifest itself as just being unhappy.  Defiant individuals are often unhappy and unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to change the aging process.  Think back over the years and see if your parent has exhibited signs of being stubborn,  defiant or uncompromising.  If so, you may have found your answer and again, it has nothing to do with you. Sometimes counseling can help but the individual being counseled must have the desire to get “better”. 

  Your parent’s unhappiness could very well stem from grief they are unable or unwilling to overcome.  If your parents were close and one has passed on, you may not realize your parent is still dealing with grief.  Time doesn’t always cure everything and in fact, it can have just the opposite effect.  I experienced this situation with my own mother as she never moved on or recovered from the grief of the death of my father.  She would have moments when all seemed well, but the majority of the time she was a very unhappy person. My siblings and I tried to discuss the grief with her but she always denied that the grief was the cause of her unhappiness.  We encouraged her to seek counseling but she refused.  If this is your situation, then I encourage you to seek professional advice on how to deal with your parent’s grief.  For me, it came up quite often.

English: Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions
Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  Your parent may just be an unhappy person!  It sounds a little trite but there are individuals who are never truly happy.  I have experienced a few individuals who are never happy and I think it is somewhat synonymous with unsatisfied.  These are individuals where nothing is ever good enough; there is always room for improvement.  There is little you can do to help an individual like this and if you did your due diligence on the Senior Facility as I stated earlier, then take comfort in that and be happy!

The best way to handle a parent who you just can’t seem to make happy in their Senior Facility is to be confident in your decision and project happiness and joy whenever you are around them.  Don’t let them drag you down as you are not responsible for their happiness.  You have given them every opportunity to be happy and enjoy the rest of their life and that’s truly all you can do!

If would like a list Independent Living Facilities, Assisted Living Facilities, Nursing Homes or any other type of Senior Facility, I hope you will consider
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We look forward to reading yours.

Bob Gregory is an advocate for Seniors and is one of the founders of At, we are dedicated to helping families get the Elder Care help they need without having to provide their personal information! If find you need an assisted living facility or other type of senior facility, please consider

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