Jun 6, 2014

Alzheimer's Dementia Perception and Conflict

Do you ever disagree with your loved one when they say or do something that makes absolutely no sense in the real world as you know it? Does this result in an argument or challenging behavior leading to heartache or regret?

Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

How much time have you spent thinking about how Alzheimer's and dementia affect perception?

Alzheimer's  Dementia  Perception and Conflict

Keep in mind there are two parts to the Alzheimer's caregiver equation - the person living with dementia, and the person caring for the person living with dementia.

One thing is certain in this equation, the perception of these two persons  are often in conflict. You read that correctly


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Let's examine the word conflict.
: strong disagreement between two people that results in an often angry argument.
: a difference that prevents agreement.
: disagreement between ideas, feelings, etc.
Do you ever disagree  with your loved one when they say or do something that makes absolutely no sense in the real world as you know it?  

Does this result in an argument  or challenging behavior leading to heartache or regret?

Slide down to the comments section and answer those questions.  Go ahead - share with others in the community.

Now, has it occurred to you that dementia can and does effect the way a person living with dementia thinks and acts. Are you always conscious of this?

Alzheimer's and related dementia(s) do change the way a persons brain works; and as a result, often changes the way a person thinks and acts in a way that is difficult for us to understand.

Often our differences and difficulties in caring occur because we are not constantly remembering and focusing on a simple fact -

persons living with Alzheimer's often see the world differently that we do.

Hence, conflict often occurs  in situations where our mind refuses to adjust to a simple fact - persons living with dementia often think, feel and


differently that we do.

Let's start with a really simple example that created enormous conflict between me and my mother, Dotty.

Dotty would say over and over, all day long, "I'm hungry, I'm starving". It was not unusual for her to start saying this over and over right after she ate a big meal.

In this situation, I obviously remembered that Dotty had just eaten. So of course I tried to remind her of this, or tried to prove to her that she had just eaten. Of course this never worked.

It did do one thing,

 It Lead to Arguments, Conflict, Hard to Deal with Behaviors, and Heartache.

After a couple of years, yes you read that correctly, it finally dawned on me that if Dotty said she was hungry, and thought she was hungry, who was I to correct her?  She believed what she was saying.

I finally understood that her view of the world was often in conflict with mine?

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What could I do?

I decided that I could accept her viewpoint, and her perceptions of the world, as long as I went to a new and different place - Alzheimer's World. 

In Alzheimer's World, the same things that were bending me out of sharp in the real world seemed so normal it was actually comforting to be there - in Alzheimer's World.

Over time I really started to get a grip on my mother's new perception of the world. It was the tangible examples that were easiest to understand and got me started on my own new caregivers perceptions.

 For example. When my mother had to step off the curb and into the street she would freeze. Now my real world brain of course would get frustrated. The brain tells you she has already done this thousands of times in her life - why won't she step down.

Finally as my care giving brain started to work (Alzheimer's World brain), I started thinking and feeling. I tried to think and feel how Dotty felt. It finally dawned on me that the step off the curb into the street looked very different to me than it did to Dotty. In fact, to Dotty it looked like she was getting ready to step off a cliff.

Once I understood that her perception of the step was very different than mine it became easy for me to be patient and reassuring until she made the step down. 

There was another benefit to this learning experience. I was finally gaining real empathy for my mother and how she might be feeling.

Here is one more quick example. I learned that a large fraction of Alzheimer's patients don't like to take a shower. This included Dotty.

I finally realized that Dotty no longer liked water. Why, because she couldn't see it - it was invisible to her. Her perception of water had changed.

What I started doing was turning on the shower water, and then getting Dotty into the shower on the side so the water was not hitting her in the head. Once in, I took her hand and gently put it under the water so she could feel it. Then I got her to ease her way into the water.

You could tell by the way she did this that she was either afraid of the water, or confused by the water.

I figured that Dotty took over 25,000 showers in her life. So I did get confused at first. I mean she took all those showers so you would think it would be a piece of cake to take a shower. Not after Alzheimer's set in.

Finally, my perception of how Dotty was thinking and feeling changed. I learned to understand her and her new found life with dementia.

For me care giving became a wonderful endeavor. I started thinking and feeling. I was gaining a new kind of understanding and empathy.

My perception in Alzheimer's World not only changed, my perception of the entire world changed.

I guess you could conclude I learned a lot, and I am benefiting from it now.

Have a story about how something your loved one was doing was driving you crazy? Let's hear it.

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 5,100 articles. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room