Mar 15, 2010

Alzheimer's Care -- Good Cop, Bad Cop

If you are a bad cop, you are probably upset all the time by the behavior of your Alzheimer's patient. If you are a good cop, you probably learned that your Alzheimer's patient is not guilty of a crime.....

By Bob DeMarco
+Alzheimer's Reading Room

Alzheimer's Care
Are you a Good Cop or a Bad Cop? This is a question all Alzheimer's caregivers should ask themselves from time to time.

I'm thinking back to the beginning when my mother would just keep eating and eating. She was always hungry. Once I took her out on Easter Sunday to brunch. It was one of those buffet style affairs. They had everything under the sun to eat. I watched in both amazement and horror as my mother "chowed down".

I couldn't believe that my tiny mother was eating more than me.

We get home and we get changed and I am thinking to myself, I am so stuffed that I don't think I will be able to eat again that day. It was around 2:30 PM in the afternoon.

I'm sitting in the living room and here comes Mom with a bowl of cereal in her hand. I can't remember exactly what I said, but I do know this -- bad cop.

Taking this one step further. I was constantly reminding Mom, you just ate. This was long before good cop came on the scene. It took a while to understand that I could tell Mom she just ate until I turned purple, and it wouldn't make any difference.

Mom didn't remember she ate, and didn't believe me when I told her she ate. She did believe that she was hungry. It didn't matter that I thought that it was impossible that Mom was hungry, it was what she thought that mattered in this situation.

Bad cops wants to explain -- the impossible to understand -- for someone suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Good cop finally comes to the conclusion that what bad cop is doing won't work and bad cop behavior only makes things worse.

Its six years later. Mom is still saying -- I'm hungry, I'm starving. It is not unusual for this to happen 15 minutes after she just ate a big meal. If mom eats then takes a nap there is one thing I know for certain, as soon as she opens her eyes she is going to say one of two things: did we eat?, or I'm hungry.

Bad cop would say in a rather harsh tone of voice -- you can't be hungry you just ate. Good cops says in a nice calm low voice -- we ate a little while ago but we are going to eat again soon. Doesn't work every time, but usually works. The word "we" works better than the word "you".

If you are a bad cop, you are probably upset all the time by the behavior of your Alzheimer's patient. If you are a good cop, you probably learned that your Alzheimer's patient is not guilty of a crime. The bad cop fights the person they are caring for, the good cop fights the disease.

Here is today's message. We are not COPS. We are Alzheimer's caregivers.
  • Try to learn to use positive reinforcement instead of contradicting your loved one.
  • Negative statements usually result in negative feelings and behavior.
  • Positive statements engender feelings of happiness and contentment.
  • Try to remember you are fighting a disease and not the person.

Make love, not war.

The word care has many meanings in the context of Alzheimer's. Consider:
  • If you care about someone, you feel they are important to you and are concerned about their well being.
  • If you care for someone, you feel a lot of affection for them.
  • If you care for someone, you look after them.
  • To take care of a problem, task, or situation means to deal with it.
  • Your cares are your worries, anxieties, or fears.

Take Care.
Bob DeMarco
Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR). Bob is a recognized Influencer, speaker, and expert in the Alzheimer's and Dementia Community Worldwide. The Alzheimer's Reading Knowledge Base contains more than 4,000 articles, and the ARR has more than 343,000 links on the Internet. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.
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