Bob DeMarco Alzheimer's Reading Room

Friday, December 11, 2009

Did We Eat? I Took a Shower


Can you guess my response?
Over on my Facebook page, I had a short interaction with Judy Best.

Judy mentioned in a comment that when she was home visiting her father she observed the following.



Her father had lunch and then took a nap. As soon as he woke up he asked, did we have lunch?

I had to chuckle. I was also thinking to myself, I wonder what percentage of Alzheimer's caregivers have the same or similar experience? Fifty percent? Seventy percent? More?

My mother is always hungry. If you ask her what she ate that day, she cannot tell you. Often she will say -- I haven't eaten all day.

Makes sense doesn't it? If you can't remember what you ate, then its just as likely that you will say you haven't eaten. (this is actually a communication tip, look beyond the obvious and you will understand why they are saying what they are saying).

I wrote many times on this blog how my mother almost drove me crazy saying -- I'm hungry, I'm starving.

It was actually worse. She could eat a full five course meal and then 15 minutes later I would find her eating a bowl of cereal.

I know how a caregiver feels when they first start experiencing these behaviors -- they feel something like they are going to go nuts. It is really disconcerting. If you don't learn how to be a "gumby" you will go nuts.

Here is how I deal with this issue.

My mother wakes up. Its either, did we eat today, or I'm hungry, I'm starving.

Now my first advice. You have to learn to accept that this is going to happen over and over and over. Maybe for the next ten years or so. Are you going to sit there and let this drive you crazy for the next ten years? Or are you willing to do something about it.

If you continue to respond in a harsh voice -- you just ate. Well all I can say is, its another bad hair day for you.

You have to learn how to relax when they ask if they ate. Take a nice deep breath.

I usually say in a nice calm voice -- we ate a little while ago, but we are going to eat again soon.

Over time, after a couple of hundred practice runs, my mother would accept that we were going to eat soon. So, we no longer had to discuss how she was hungry and starving.

You make the choice. Let this situation and those words drive you crazy for the next ten years. Or, do something to deal with the words and behavior that are driving you nuts.

My point. Go nuts or do something to change the game. Start by realizing it is you, driving you nuts. That might help.

One last tip. Don't try to explain over and over, day after day, that they just ate. Bang you head against a concrete wall a couple times instead. You'll figure it all out.
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Yesterday was a bad day.

When I tried to explain to my mother that it was time to take a shower she went crazy.

She tried to tell me she had already taken a shower. When this happens and she is in the bad Alzheimer's mood, I know from experience that I have to turn into Dr. Bobby.

It is almost certain that regardless what I say, or how I say it -- the weather in Amarillo is going to get bad fast. It is only a question of how bad.

Well yesterday we had the Alzheimer's tornado.

My mother first started screaming at me. Then it got worse -- much worse (been there?)

She started whimpering and then crying. She said 50 or so times some combination of "I wish I was dead", "I can't take it anymore", and some nice choice nasty words about me that I am not going to write here.

I finally got her calmed down a bit and then she took the shower.

Now we are at the point where I know I have to rehabilitate her for the day. If I don't, she will go into a black hole for a long long period of time -- maybe as long as a day.

After the shower incident, my mother is more or less like a zombie. The experience has drained most of the energy out of her, and just doesn't have anything left. As a result, there is not enough energy for the brain -- result zombie like behavior.

After lunch still the same. Really won't talk or respond. Very dull look on her face.

I know I have to do something or my stomach is going to end up in a knot for hours and hours -- maybe for day.

First effort. Take her over the pool and get her some social interaction. Bad luck. The core crew that she knows are gone for the day. We hang out in the sun for 20 minutes. Bright light helps.

Second effort. Get someone to call her on phone and talk to her. Usually works. Didn't work.

Last ditch effort for now. Shoot some prune juice into her. Twenty minutes go by and she takes a poop.

New person. Now take her out and run some errands and get her into the sun.

Took about five hours to bring her back. Thank goodness.

She finally has a bit of a smile and is responding. More telephone calls later brings her most of the way back.

Today. We are off to a good start.



Amazing, as I am getting to wrap up this article my mother woke up and asked, did we eat today?

Can you guess my response?
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Bob DeMarco is the editor of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The Alzheimer's Reading Room is the number one website on the Internet for news, advice, and insight into Alzheimer's disease. Bob has written more than 950 articles with more than 8,000 links on the Internet. Bob resides in Delray Beach, FL.

Original content Bob DeMarco, Alzheimer's Reading Room