Feb 1, 2012

Do You Let Your Alzheimer's Patient 'Veg Out'

When I let Dotty "veg out" she was bored. Bored patients are not good patients. More likely than not, they will ruin your day, every day.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Spuds McKenzie
This article is not about "pigging" out on vegetables, its about letting a person living with Alzheimer's sit around idly doing nothing, nada, nimbus, nix.

I'll start with some full disclosure here.

Yes, way back when, near the beginning of my Alzheimer's caregiving journey, I did let Dotty sit around like an uncooked vegetable. I also let her doze off in a chair, or on the sofa. Truth be told, when she was "out cold" I felt at ease, comfortable.

Years later I finally realized the heavy priced I paid for being a "couch potato" caregiver.

A very heavy toll.

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I guess I should have known better.

Near the beginning, I went to look at an Alzheimer's day care center. No I didn't make an appointment. I walked in and started looking around. I didn't last long. I looked in one room and they had about 20 Alzheimer's patients sitting in an arc watching the boob tube. Let me put it this way, "not there". The patients "not their in mind and spirit", Dotty not going there.

In the defense of that memory care center, they now have an active, wonderful program for persons living with Alzheimer's or another type of dementia. They do it all, sing, paint, puzzles, anything then can to bring out the "more there". We have come a long way in 8 years.

For about 14 months or so, Dotty wasn't really doing much of anything. I finally introduced real exercise in a gym into her life when she was 87 years old. For a couple of hours after the gym it was great. Great for both of us. Then everything would go downhill.

I didn't realize it, but after the gym I let Dotty become a couch potato and soon enough she turned into a "mean ol' junkyard dog". I am not referring to a Spuds McKenzie like bulldog.

Another 4 months or so went by and I finally concluded that we had to get out of cave. This is when I had the epiphany

We would start living our life.

First, we started going out to dinner that really didn't work well. Finally, I stumbled on to the idea of the Banana Boat. Sit outside, drink a beer, eat burgers, wings, or a Bermuda Triangle. Not only did this work, but please read this carefully,

Dotty started making friends.

Here is a nice shot of Dotty, some of her friends, and the Banana Boat. Kewl Right?

Dotty and Friends at the Banana Boat

Check this out, A Wonderful Moment in Time--Mom at the Banana Boat.

Later on I got the bright idea, bright light. Bright light really works and can change the attitude and behavior of a person living with dementia.

Now you might be wondering what Dotty is doing right now? Simple answer.

She is listening to the Singers and Swing channel on the television (music). Much of the music on that channel is from the 1930s and 1940s. Any time now, Dotty is going to start singing a few words, or humming along. It will happen as soon as something she digs comes on. Or, something catchy.

Okay enough with the example and enthymeme, lets get to the point.

When I let Dotty "veg out" she was bored. Bored patients are not good patients. More likely than not they will ruin your day, every day. You have to figure out how to change your 'vegetable' into a flower.

This means activity.

Not all day long every day. But several times a day. We read and discuss the newspaper, sing and talk with Harvey, Dotty also spends some quality time alone with Harvey, Dotty plays with Lidia (the Doll), Snoopey (the dancing dog version), Dorothy (the furry rabbit) and sometimes with my favorite Bobby Jr (for some reason Dotty is afraid of Bobby Jr).

I use the music on television. The Swing music is big and full of instruments. It sounds wonderful.

We go out into the bright light every day. Sometimes get a short visit from a friend, or go see someone.

Ans, sometimes we go out and party.

Dotty is now a sweetie the majority of the time. But it didn't happen by luck.

I think that covers it.

You decide. Burden or Joy. Its up to you.

More Insight and Advice for Caregivers      

Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The blog contains more than 3,261 articles with more than 402,100 links on the Internet. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room