Are you coping and communicating effectively with a person living with Alzheimer's dementia?
By +Bob DeMarco
+Alzheimer's Reading Room
Sinister is a strong word. A person who is sinister is border line evil, or evil.
If you read message boards you will find that one of the dominant themes is that Alzheimer's patients are mean, and often challenging.
When I encounter someone that tells me their Alzheimer's patient is mean I always ask -- were they mean before they were diagnosed with Alzheimer's? The answer to this question is usually no.
Wouldn't it be easy to conclude that if a person was not mean, but then became mean after a diagnosis of Alzheimer's or a related dementia, that the cause of the meanness is Alzheimer's?
And more importantly, that the person living with dementia is not inherently mean.
Seems like a simple conclusion. Agree or disagree?
Are Alzheimer's patients inherently mean?
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If you go on Alzheimer's caregiver discussion boards on the Internet, or to a live support group, you will hear a large fraction of the caregivers "vent" about meanness.
Next time this happens I would suggest you ask, why. Why is the patient mean? Why are they mean?
I am beginning to believe that WHY is the most powerful word of them all.
Why don't we as caregivers ask ourselves why more often?
There are some simple reasons why Alzheimer's patients can become or are mean.
For example, I always ask, do you leave them alone during the day? The answer to this question is almost always yes. If you leave an Alzheimer's patients alone for a short period of time to go to the store it is likely they will become mean sometime after you return.
Think about it this way.
Let's assume the person you care the most about in the entire world disappeared.
You have no idea where they went, what happened to them, or if they are ever coming back.
How would you feel? Worried? Terror? Fear for their well being?
By the way, this actually happened to me. I can tell you, you will be thinking the worst before long. And, when the person reappears the emotion that will come out of you, negative emotion, will be earth shattering.
So ask yourself. Is it possible that if you leave an Alzheimer's patients alone for any period of time, even a short period of time, that they feel worried, confused, or terror? What is the likely emotions they will express when you return. Happiness and relief? Or, meanness?
When you start asking yourself "why" you might start to get a better perspective on the feelings of an Alzheimer's patients.
For example, maybe you were gone for 30 minutes and you know this. However, maybe the person who is becoming more and more forgetful (deeply forgetful) can't remember when you left.
Maybe they think you have been gone all day. Maybe they start to feel like you are never coming back. Maybe they feel like you are abandoning them.
In the situation above would you try to explain to an Alzheimer's patients that you were only gone for a short period of time? Does this help or make things worse?
Do you feel violated when the Alzheimer's patients accuses you of being gone for a long time and you know you weren't?
As it turns out you might not like the idea that Alzheimer's patients cannot be left alone; and if they are left alone they will become mean.
Like it or not, you do need to realize it is your own actions and behaviors that are causing the meanness in the person living with dementia.
Most often patients living with dementia are not inherently mean. Meanness comes with the terror of Alzheimer's.
When Alzheimer's patients become confused they become mean.
In order to cope and communicate with a person living with dementia you have to start asking yourself
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.Learn more about the Alzheimer's Reading Room Knowledge Base