When a loved one shows changes in their personality, the experience is more difficult than we often anticipate. Many family caregivers report that they feel like they’re taking care of a stranger. And, as if caregivers don’t have enough stress on them, they may have to take care of a person who is suddenly angry and irate.

While you can’t exactly change the personality per se, there are things you can do to minimize outbursts and cope with the difficult personality changes when they do arise.

Anger, Yelling and Rage

These types of emotions are generally related to a person feeling distressed. Your loved one may be losing friends, dealing with chronic pain, having memory problems or suffering from incontinence, all situations that bring about feelings of pain, discomfort or embarrassment. They may not know how to express these emotions, so they lash out.

What you can do is try to identify what it causing this anger, as there may be a way to decrease the distress. If the behavior is coming from something broader, such as memory loss, you can help your loved one by speaking in simple, direct phrases. Keep in mind that Alzheimers and dementia patients do not have control over their behavior.

Lack of Self Care

If you notice that your loved one is refusing to take showers or dress themselves, it may be that they are trying to have some level of control over their lives. They are losing control in other areas, so they try to have power over the things they can. The more caregivers insist, the more they resist.

A lack of self care may also mean that your loved one is depressed. In some cases, the person may be scared of slipping in the tub or asking for help, so they avoid bathing altogether. Find out why your loved one has stopped caring for themselves and see how you can fix the problem. For instance, if the elder is scared or depressed, an in-home caregiver can be helpful in assisting them with showering, dressing, clipping toenails and more.

Obsessive Behaviors

It’s common for elders, especially those with depression, anxiety or dementia, to show obsessive behaviors. This is not a character flaw but a symptom, so don’t belittle your loved one. Instead, determine what triggers the compulsiveness, such as new situations or loud noises. Resist accommodating these behaviors and see what types of help are available for controlling compulsive behavior, such as group therapy or treatment for an underlying disorder.