Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Alzheimer's Communication, Take a Few Deep Breaths


I came to accept the Alzheimer's disease for what it is--something mean and sinister that was not going to go away. I learned to take control of the situation at hand.

By Bob DeMarco

Alzheimer's Communication Take a Few Deep Breaths
I actually wrote the article below back in 2008. The technique I described -- labeling your feelings and then diffusing stress by taking a few deep breaths is really helping me right now.

I breath in my nose and out my mouth slowing. Deep breaths. I can feel the stress coming out of my neck.

This is coming in handy right now but for a different purpose than described in the article below. Dotty is sick and I am stressed. The combination of diffusing the stress with deep breathing and all the support I am getting from the Collective Voice of the Alzheimer's Reading Room is really helping me get through this difficult time.

Think about the article below and give this technique a try.


When my mother would say something mean, nonsensical or just downright crazy it would bring up emotions like anger in me immediately. Imagine a person being very mean to you and how you might feel. Since I was raised in a feisty Italian-American family it was not unusual for my “temper” to flair.

When I moved to Delray Beach, Florida to take care of my mother one of my most difficult problems was learning how to communicate with her. If you are caring for a person suffering from Alzheimer's or dementia you know how difficult this can be.

When my mother would say something mean, nonsensical or just downright crazy it would bring up emotions like anger in me immediately. Imagine a person being very mean to you and how you might feel.

Since I was raised in a feisty Italian-American family it was not unusual for my "temper" to flair. If I reacted the way I had in the past my mother would either get "meaner", or she would go into her room and stay there for hours on end often refusing to speak. I would end up with a pain in my stomach and a range of feelings that included a sense of hopelessness.

I realized during those first days that I needed to learn how to deal effectively with this new, unfamiliar, communication with my mother.

The first thing I decided to do was work very hard to learn a new set of skills to deal with these situations.

I learned to label (identify) and accept my initial feelings. What was I feeling: anger, frustration, confusion, sadness or a combination of all of these feelings? I found that by identifying my feelings I could corral and contain them. Then, I could deal effectively with my mother and the situation at hand.

Once I had my mother settled, I would go into a separate room and let my feeling come to the surface. First identify, second feel, and third dismiss these feeling as part of the sometimes craziness called Alzheimer's disease. I know my mother didn't mean what she was saying and I knew from my previous 50 years with her that she would never say or do the things she was doing if she could help it.

As I was learning this new behavior, I read an article about taking a "few deep breaths". I tried it. Before I knew it, I was able to use this technique to blow away all the bad feelings and find myself relieved. I also learned to take a few deep breaths once the communication episode with my mother was starting. This really helped me get in focus and reminded about what needed to be accomplished. The task at hand.

So my advice to you is to learn how to take a few deep breaths. Nice and slow, deeper and deeper breaths. It works. You might also envision yourself blowing away big dark clouds and replacing them with nice big white puffy clouds.

I learned to accept my initial reaction to these situations as part of being human. In other words, I came to understand that it was OK to have my feelings, my emotions.

I also learned that I needed to keep these feelings in check and find a way to diffuse the anger within me.

I came to understand that my mother was now evidencing behavior that was a result of her own confusion and the deterioration taking place in her brain. I came to accept the Alzheimer's disease for what it is--something mean and sinister that was not going to go away. I learned to take control of the situation at hand.

You can do it too, I know you can.


I want to add something here. As a result of developing new communication techniques, acceptance of the situation, exercise, good nutrition, and the introduction of alternative medicines my mother is no longer malevolent--mean.



Bob DeMarco
Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The ARR knowledge base contains more than 3,811 articles with more than 306,100 links on the Internet. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room