Jun 19, 2014

Did You Know Dementia Patients Get Agitated When Left Alone?

They love us and rely on us so much they just can't stand to be without us.

Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Are you dealing with an Alzheimer's patients that is mean and ornery? Or, sometimes  mean and ornery?

Alzheimer's Heart | Alzheimer's Reading Room

Did you know that past a certain stage dementia patients can't be left alone? Not even for a very short period of time.

Related Article
Subscribe to the Alzheimer's Reading Room

Early on in my caregiving career I learned a very important lesson. You cannot leave a person with Alzheimer's alone even for a very short period of time.

After a while I started noticing that whenever I left Dotty alone, when I came back she was often ornery or even angry. This lead to a very bad period. Sometimes this period lasted or hours and sometimes it lasted for days.

Basically Dotty was unhappy and I was unhappy. Unhappiness does not breed contentment and cooperation.

How did I discover both this problem and the solution? I finally put one and one together and made three.

Sometimes I would go out to throw out the trash and while out talk to a neighbor. I might be gone for 15 minutes. I started noticing that when my mother would talk to my sister at night she would tell her, he was gone all day, I don't know what he is up to. Clearly Dotty was confused. I had been with her the entire day with the exceptions of those 15 minutes.

As should be obvious, when Dotty accused me  of "being away all day, and being up to something" I would get angry. And yes, I would correct her with a detailed explanation of her "wrong thinking".

Of course this didn't work. In fact it only made things worse, and it made our relationship worse.

I also noticed that when Dotty didn't see me, even if I was a few feet away, she would would start saying loudly,

"Bobby, Bobby, where are you"? 

If answered quickly this seemed to

reassure her.

Sometimes Dotty and I would be in different rooms and she would start saying loudly, "Bobby, Bobby, where are you"? If I yelled from the Florida room, I'm back here in the Florida room, well this really didn't work well. It was not enough reassurance for a person living with dementia, and quite frankly, Dotty probably no longer knew where the Florida room was.

I soon learned that if I got up and yelled, I'm coming. Then when I arrived where she was looked her in the eye and smiled, waited for her to smile back at me, and then said, "I'm right here",  it seemed to reassure her in a very positive way.

I could tell both by the look on her face, and by how she acted in the aftermath.

So I finally learned after much heartache and many hundreds of stomachaches that  you cannot leave a person who is deeply forgetful alone.

If you do, you will suffer the consequences. Meanness, difficult, and challenging behavior that will ruin your day, day after day after day.

I call this burden  by the way.

I did learn one good technique. I moved the furniture around and positioned Dotty so that when she said, "Bobby, Bobby, where are you?", I could spin around fast in my chair to get her attention, give her the smile, get the smile back, and say, here I am.

Over time this cumulatively reassurance made a big difference.

By the way, Dotty often did her Bobby Bobby when she dozed off on the sofa. I actually moved the computer to a strategic position so I could work on the Alzheimer's Reading Room and then when necessary spin around so she could see me, and get the reassurance she needed.

You have to learn to listen very closely to a person living with dementia. When Dotty said I was gone all day it was because she no longer had a real sense of time. I had to correct for this.

Most Alzheimer's patients shadow their Alzheimer's caregiver like glue. This included Dotty.

They love us and rely on us so much they just can't stand to be without us.

It really is not as hard to adjust as you might think. The payoff and reward make it easy.

Bob DeMarco
About Author. Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR). Bob is a recognized expert, writer, speaker, and influencer in the Alzheimer's and Dementia Community worldwide. The ARR Knowledge Base contains more than 4,700 articles. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.
Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room