How can I get my father to stop yelling at me?

Julia, berkeley asked...

My elderly father is scared, depressed, and not open to discussing this with non-family members, I don't have the emotional, physical and financial resources to give him the level of support he needs and there are no other family members available. He used to be a kind person, but now yells at and threatens me (emotionally). I tried to convince him to move with my mom to live closer to me, but he won't. I have hired a care manager who helps, but the big emotional burden falls on me. I must work full-time, plus have a spouse and child to care for. I'm seeing a therapist but am still so stressed it's hard for me to function. If I speak with him when he calls me, which is pretty much every day, it exhausts me, and if I don't he gets even more angry. What shall I do?

Expert Answer

Before you do anything else, it is important for you to talk to your father about his behavior, and it's effect on you. He may be elderly and unhappy, but that does not give him the right to abuse you. Unless he is suffering from some type of mental illness, there is absolutely no excuse for his behavior, and you should not tolerate it.

You also have the right to set some parameters around your contact with him. Arrange to call him every few days at a specific hour that is convenient for both of you, and stick to this schedule. Make it clear that as much as you care about him, you also have work and personal obligations that need your attention. You should also make it clear that you won't stay on the phone if he badgers or yells at you. Having said that, it sounds as if your father is in some distress, and needs help, whether he is willing to accept it or not. We consulted several experts, who agreed that your father's behavior could indicate some kind of serious problem, since you said that he is not normally prone to angry outbursts. Your father's distress could be caused at least in part by depression, illness, or dementia, and treatment is likely to bring him -- and you -- some relief. Contact your father's physician and explain what is going on, and make sure he goes in for an examination soon.

It sounds as if you are caring for your parents from a distance. If so, you may want to ask your care manager to get more involved, at least until you get the situation stabilized. She should be able to give you some insight into your father's condition, and also to put you in touch with the appropriate experts and resources.

Best of luck and keep in touch.