What is a Chronic Problem Older Person?

Aug 01 2018

As you work with senior adults you will discover the wide range of personalities. Whereas most personalities are pleasant and most cooperative, some are not! 

 Johnson Institute Course 108 is specially designed to assist you serve these more difficult personalities in ways most helpful to them and most effective for you.  Understanding the five most common chronic problem personalities, recognizing their special needs, and developing sensitivity to their unique ways of seeing themselves and the world, are your most potent tools for building a ministerial relationship where both you and the senior adults you serve are most receptive to God's grace.

 Often older persons who experience emotional difficulties are dismissed as "cranky", "just getting old," or even, "senile".   We need to understand the characteristics of older persons with emotional difficulties and the reasons for their sometimes baffling behaviors.  

Characteristics of older persons who are difficult, chronic problem persons. 

  • History of long-standing problems 
  • Change is slow; improvement minimal 
  • Not in a current life crisis 
  • Frustrating to caregivers 

Their behaviors can be frustrating. 

  • Progress is slow; professional and personal gratification is minimal 
  • Ministerial and pastoral help and assistance often not appreciated 
  • Senior adult may be uncooperative 
  • Chronic problem seniors may be unattractive, offensive, or unappealing 

Possible reactions by caregivers 

  • Anger 
  • Frustration and feeling defeated 
  • Avoidance and passive-aggressiveness 
  • Exhaustion and depression 

Five manipulative approaches for "hooking" the caregiver used by difficult older persons.

  •  Flattery 
  • Guilt-provoking statements and behaviors 
  • Intimidation 
  • Anger and hostile demands  
  • Pity 

Guidelines for effective caregiving with difficult older persons.       

  • Maintain a realistic attitude 
  • Maintain a focus in the present, avoid obsessing over the past 
  • Set goals for the present 
  • Develop long-term goals 
  • Set clear limits on availability 
  • Place responsibility clearly onto the older person                       

I designed JI Course 108 to help anyone who works with older persons in any capacity to better understand the characteristics of the chronic-problem older person.  The chronic-problem older person has a long-standing history of problems which may be so crystallized, that they are simply unchangeable.  We have also learned that chronic problem older persons can frustrate us in a variety of ways.  

Chronic-problem personalities often influence us into providing continual services through the use of flattery, guilt-provoking statements, intimidation, anger, and self-pity.  JI Course 108 also stresses some practical skills for managing the chronic problem older person, particularly limit setting and concrete goals.  It is also most important to allow the older person to take responsibility for his or her own life.  With these new skills you are better equipped to manage the chronic-problem older person.

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