My Mom Has Become Mean. What Do I Do?

senior looking outside a window

Dear Kimberly:

My mother has always been so kind and considerate of everyone’s feelings. She was someone that everyone loved being around until the past year or so when we noticed some behavior changes. She’s become very difficult and, as much as I hate to admit it, sometimes, she is downright mean. There is just no reasoning with her when she is upset.

I’m confused by her behavior and what might be triggering this change. Do you have any suggestions on what we can do?

Friends and family members are noticing the change and starting to avoid her. It breaks my heart to see that happening.



Managing Difficult Behavior in an Older Loved One

Dear Alice:

It sounds like you are going through a tough time. Adult children may have a difficult time adjusting to a change in a parent’s disposition. What makes it even more challenging is that it is often the people who do the most for a parent that are the target of their animosity.

While aging can exacerbate personality quirks, it typically doesn’t change a person’s personality completely. For example, if your mother was always a little short-tempered, it wouldn’t be uncommon for her to become more so as she grows older. In your mother’s case, however, it sounds like she’s going through a bigger change than that.

There are a variety of reasons that might explain her change in disposition including:

  • Unmanaged pain you aren’t aware of

  • An adverse reaction to a medication or an interaction between two medications

  • An undiagnosed infection of some type, such as a urinary tract infection

  • Depression or a case of the blues

  • Early sign of some forms of dementia

  • Untreated thyroid disease, which can cause moodiness and mood swings

My first question in trying to help you is to ask if you’ve spoken with your mother’s doctor about the changes you are witnessing?

He or she will likely want to perform a complete physical exam to see if they can determine the root cause of her behavior.

It might be something that is easily treatable, like an infection or a problem with her thyroid. Her physician may be able to prescribe an antibiotic or thyroid medication that gets her back on track and feeling like herself again! So the next best step is probably to schedule an appointment with her primary care doctor.

I hope this helps, Alice!

Kind Regards,