Ruth says, "Dotty is mad". I didn't cringe. I took an approach that even I didn't expect, and it worked.
By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room
The current larger
version of me
On Friday (afternoon, evening) and Saturday night I went out. This means I left Dotty in the care of Jim and Ruth twice this weekend. I wish I could better explain how wonderful Jim and Ruth are with Dotty, but words just won't do it. Let me say they have the touch, I think many of you will understand what I mean.
Where did I go? To the professional tennis tournament that is being held in Delray Beach this week.
There was a special connection this week. John Isner, the former Georgia bulldog and NCAA champion was the number one seed.
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On Friday, I received a call from Ricky Diaz. Rick is an x-student of mine from the University of Georgia. Ricky also played tennis at the University of Georgia along with his brother Manuel. Manuel is also good friend and x-student. Manuel is also the current coach of the University of Georgia tennis team. Amazingly, he has been the coach of 4 national championship teams. This makes Manny one of the greatest college tennis coaches of all time.
Both Rick and Manuel are always great to be around. They both have a very upbeat positive attitude.
Day one. Rick calls and asked if I wanted to go see John Isner play. I decided right on the spot that I wanted to go, and all I had too do was see if Jim and Ruth could watch Dotty. They agreed to do so. So off I went at 3 in the afternoon, and I returned home at 8:30. After the match Ricky and I went downtown and had a few beers.
When I came back to get Dotty I went in blazing away, and didn't even give her a chance to get "mad". We returned home and then something funny happened. We came in, got situated and the next thing I knew I was asleep in my chair with the television on. When I fell asleep, Dotty was on the sofa. When I woke up round 10:30, no Dotty. I went up to her bedroom and there she was asleep. Dotty managed to get herself up and put herself to bed. I had her change into her pajamas when we came back home.
When I woke up Saturday morning I kinda laughed to myself, and then went down to check on Dotty. She was still sleeping. I thought it over and concluded, gee, this was pretty close to the good old days. The good old days meaning before AD.
Day two. On Saturday, Rick called again and asked if I wanted to go back for Isner's 9 PM match. Hmm, kinda late. I checked with Jim and Ruth and they said okay.
Just to be clear here. I took Dotty down to Jim and Ruth, she didn't stay home (both days). I am starting to think this is a good idea. I had not given this much thought in the past, and most people advised me to keep Dotty home when I went away for a few days (I didn't). I'm am now convinced it is better to get Dotty out on these excursions if possible. Dotty use to go out on her own, all the time. So, it must be a good thing to let her have some time off, and go out.
Okay now to the point.
I didn't get back to pick up Dotty until 12:10 AM. Ruth informed me at the door that Dotty was mad. I went blazing in. Sure enough, Dotty had the "I've been dipped in shit" look on her face. She started with the usual. Where the "hell have you been" routine.
And, then it happened.
Laughing and smiling all the way I said to Dotty, "I have been home waiting for you to come home". Where have you been? I thought you would never come home, so I came to get you. At this point, Dotty doesn't really know what is what. I continue on laughing and smiling and then segway into the tennis match and our time out (Ricky and me). I just keep on going. I tell Dotty how she should have been there with us, etc.
So finally we get up to go home and arrive home at 1:10 AM. Keep in mind Dotty stayed up the entire time.
Early this morning Dotty wakes up, goes to the bathroom and gets stuck. She can't move. So she gives me the YouWho. When I get there I ask, what is wrong? She tells me she can't move. I say to her, no problem, I'll help you out.
Dotty has a very nice look on her face this morning. More alive. She is in a good mood. No complaints so far. There is no doubt in my mind that Dotty benefited from being out. I did. I had a great time.
As I think things over I conclude. Once you make it into Alzheimer's World, you tend to think about solutions to problems; rather than, dwell or fixate on problems. Instead of being reactive, you become proactive. In a way, instead of being overwhelmed, you become accepting.
In my case. When Ruth said, Dotty is mad, I didn't cringe. I think I said, I'll take care of it. Even if I didn't say it, I thought it. I started walking full speed a head to address the situation right now. I was already laughing and smiling before I got to Dotty.
I went in their with a good positive attitude and took control by accentuating the positive. In some ways, I was a bit surprised. I am no longer worried about "defusing" Dotty was she gets "mad". I learned how to do it.
But here is the thing that is sticking out in my mind right now. I seem to be getting better and better at defusing Dotty quicker. This compares to 6-8 years ago when Dotty would get "mad" and stay mad sometimes for a full 24 hours. I didn't know what to do in those days, so I tried to explain to Dotty why she shouldn't be mad, and/or why she should come out of her bedroom.
The keyword here is should.
It is idiotic in the first place to tell someone how they should feel. I knew this, I know this. So why was that a tactic I tried to use.
You could say by now I believe the best policy, or one of the best, is to "kill em with kindness". Meet anger with kindness. The oddest thing about this conversation I am having with you right here is, it is not very easy to meet anger with kindness in the real world.
However, it seems to me that it becomes very easy to do once you get to Alzheimer's World. I mean a deeply forgetful person is very lovable in their own way. Why are so many people, caregivers included, so wary and suspecting of the deeply forgetful. I mean they are deeply forgetful and this causes stuff to change.
Look at it this way. If your legs were cut off you would have to adapt. But, you would still be alive, and still be capable of living your life.
Yes, the deeply forgetful are often problematic. They cause problems and they cause angst. But this is not of their own volition.
Volition: the cognitive process by which an individual decides on or commits to a particular course of action.
Many of the acts that the deeply forgetful commit are a result of the sickness in their brain, not acts of their own volition.
We, the caregivers, on the other hand, can act of our own volition.
It is better to focus on the solution, rather than the problem.
They say, practice makes perfect. Well, I for one am far from being perfect. But I can say, I am practicing.
So today, at this moment I am feeling happy.
I am feeling happy for a long list of reasons.
I am feeling happy because I didn't let Alzheimer's get the best of me, to defeat me.
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Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The blog contains more than 3,410 articles with more than 410,100 links on the Internet. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.