Understanding your senior loved one’s range of emotions can be challenging. Helping them depends on knowing what is affecting them. Pegasus caregivers in Porter Ranch and elsewhere have collected these facts help you go beneath surface expressions.
It’s not easy to pin down a solid definition of emotion. For many people, it’s a case of “I’ll know it when I feel it.” Researchers trying to describe emotions have changed their descriptions over the years.
According to a dictionary, emotion is “a conscious mental reaction (such as anger or fear). The reaction is experienced as a “strong feeling usually directed toward a specific object.” It’s also defined as “a state of feeling.”
A psychologist describes emotion as “a complex psychological state.” The emotion has three components:
- Subjective – not every type of emotion is the same in every situation for every person. The fear felt by your senior loved one is usually much different than your feelings of fear. Your fear that your senior isn’t eating correctly is different than the fear you feel when they have chest pain. They may fear being left alone, but you fear losing your job when you take time off to be with them.
- Physiological – that’s the way bodies physically react. Your senior loved one might experience heart palpitations when they fear seeing a doctor. You might develop sweaty palms when your boss summons you to their office.
- Behavioral – that’s the way the emotions are expressed. Your loved one hides their fear of what the doctor might say with dismissive statements like docs are nothing but pill pushers. Or they might refuse to undergo tests or agree to see the doctor. You might handle your fear of what the boss wants with nervous jokes to coworkers. Or a quick trip to the restroom before entering the office.
Your senior loved one has had lots of time to become expert in hiding or disguising their emotions. You may need to do some detective work to uncover to determine what they’re really feeling.
What Are Emotions?
Other than psychological states that are different for everyone, what are emotions? More than 2,300 years ago, Aristotle compiled a list of 14 emotions. He listed:
Twentieth-century psychologist Robert Plutchik modified the list to eight basic emotions. His list included:
Plutchik devised a “Wheel of Emotions” based on the traditional color wheel.
His Wheel assigned ranges of colors and intensities to each emotion. It was designed to show how emotions overlap or combine to form an almost infinite variety of feelings.
Dr. Paul Ekman studied facial expressions of people in a variety of cultures. His list of emotions includes:
Ekman describes these as universally recognized feelings regardless of age, sex, race, or language.
Another contemporary group of researchers says there are only four basic human expressions. These are afraid, angry, happy, and sad. Variances are due to social or cultural influences.
Yet another group of researchers maintains that there are 27 kinds of emotions. Take your choice.
Your Feelings Influence Every Decision You Make
The critical thing to know about feelings is that they determine how individuals live their lives. Daily decisions, some life-changing, are based on emotions and how individuals feel.
Careers, relationships, activities, reactions, and everything else are based on one or more feelings. People often say “I feel like I should do or not do this or that.”
Your senior loved one quite likely has the same range of emotions they had when they were younger. However, they have had time to develop the skill of emotional regulation. Aging doesn’t necessarily lead to more negative emotions.
Seniors have practice in overcoming negative experiences and emotions. Many can view events with a well-honed sense of calm and balance. Often they can recover from negativity faster than younger individuals.
The Ability To Control Emotions Decreases With Age
The mellowing of maturity doesn’t last forever for some seniors. As the years pass, especially after age 70, illness and adversity take a toll. The ability to regulate emotions decreases as the intensity of feelings increases.
When you are having trouble understanding your loved one’s emotions, it helps to know the context. They might be telling you they can’t sleep are or aren’t hungry. In reality, they may be feeling sad, lonely, or depressed.
Your senior might insist they are independent when you can see evidence they need help. They might be hiding the fear that you’ll put them in a nursing home.
Your elder might be expressing anger toward you. You will likely discover the true source of the anger is their feelings about their failing health. Or it might be unexpressed grief over losses of which you’re unaware. Pegasus is a licensed Home Care Organization and a Joint Commission Accredited Home Health Care organization. Since 1994, we’ve helped individuals remain safe and independent in their home. Our caregivers in Porter Ranch and our other locations always strive to help each person improve their quality of life.