How Do I Respond to a Negative Elderly Person?

by Shellie Braeuner

As people live longer, there is a growing need for effective communication with and care of the older generations. The American Psychological Association notes that it is a common myth that the elderly become more difficult with age. However, the elderly do experience many changes that can lead to a negative demeanor, and some people have been negative since childhood. Learn how to deal with negativity to foster a meaningful relationship with an elderly person in your life.

Don’t respond to the person negatively. Although it may be tempting to give a grouchy reply, that will only feed into the other person’s negativity. Dr. Raj Raghunathan points out that negative people are skilled at finding ways to blame others for their bad attitude.

Consider why the person is negative. Some people have been negative their entire lives. The APA states that the personality doesn’t really change with age. However, some people do experience a shift in attitude from medication, chronic pain or loss. If negative speech or behavior has recently cropped up, look at changes in medication or a recent bereavement.

Give the person additional respect, attention and love. If the elderly person is going through grief, understanding may be all that is necessary to help him through the process.

Find the root cause of the negativity. Talk to the elderly person and her physician about changes in medication. If pain is a constant companion, discuss therapies designed to reduce pain and make the person more comfortable.

Take responsibility for your own happiness. By all means, have compassion for the negative person, but don’t let his negativity hurt you. When it comes to elder care, this might mean getting help so that you can have a break. Look into social outings for your senior. Talk to family members or local social services.


  • Talk to the person's physician if you notice any extreme changes in attitude or behavior or talk of self-harm.

About the Author

Based in Nashville, Shellie Braeuner has been writing articles since 1986 on topics including child rearing, entertainment, politics and home improvement. Her work has appeared in "The Tennessean" and "Borderlines" as well as a book from Simon & Schuster. Braeuner holds a Master of Education in developmental counseling from Vanderbilt University.

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