Jul 23, 2014

I Have a Problem Getting My Wife to Do Self Care

I have one problem of getting my wife to do self care like getting up in the morning and brushing her teeth.

By +Bob DeMarco
+Alzheimer's Reading Room

Always Seek Knowledge

Our reader Chavalit wrote the comment below under the article - Learning How to Communicate with Someone Living with Alzheimer's
I have one problem of getting my wife to do self care like getting up in the morning and brushing her teeth.
Do you have idea to get her to do something. I usually give her time and eventually she did it. What ever she said I did what you did.
If you have insight or words of wisdom for Chavalit, please use the comments section below this article to respond.

I'll go first.

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It is not unusual for persons living with dementia to forget how to brush their teeth. In addition, they no longer understand that lack of good hygiene can lead to infections. The same could be said about the shower or bath.

Infections can cause memory loss in persons living with Alzheimer's. Infections can make dementia patients mean, dull, or hard to deal with. It can even make them talk gibberish as explained in this article by Carol Larkin - Dementia Patients in the Emergency Room - Think UTI First.

Infections can also lead to death in persons living with dementia. Please understand that an untreated infection can escalate and lead to death. I have the emails from readers that alerted me to the fact that this does happen.

Now for my dental care experience. Getting Dotty to brush her teeth.

Early on Dotty got a gum infection that was pretty severe. We went to the dentist and guess what he wanted to do - he wanted to start pulling her teeth. I responded - not at this time. Just give us the prescription for penicillin.

Dotty still had all her teeth at the end of her life. And, she never had another gum infection.

Here is what I did. Once I had Dotty all settled in the morning I would get two toothbrushes and the tooth paste and I took them into the kitchen near the sink. I would then go and guide Dotty to the kitchen. Of course, as I stuck out my hand to guide her she would ask, where are we going. My response, you'll see. No cajoling, no long explanation about good hygiene. Just the hand.

When we arrived in the kitchen I put the toothpaste on the brush and handed it to her. Then I did the same, I didn't say a word and I started brushing my teeth. And then, Dotty start to brush her teeth. In other words, I used mirroring as a communication technique. Dotty mirrored my action.

As I have written many times, it is always best to guide. Saying a lot of words or trying to convince just doesn't work with Alzheimer's patients.

In fact,

Actions Speak Louder than Words.

Lots of reassurance, good nonverbal communication, and a positive attitude can pay off for caregivers.

Also see.


Alzheimer's patients are not recalcitrant. They don't say NO to be mean or uncooperative. They often say NO because they can't really understand what it is that you want them to do. And/or, they no longer understand the importance of good hygiene. They don't understand that a lack of good hygiene can lead to infections and poor health.

Alzheimer's patients are easily confused by too many words. So instead of explaining, complaining, or begging.


Want to learn more about dental care and brushing the teeth?

Here is a list of articles from the Alzheimer's Reading Room Knowledge Base. Share the link in support groups.


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Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR). Bob is a recognized writer, speaker, and influencer in the Alzheimer's and Dementia Community worldwide. The ARR Knowledge Base contains more than 4,800 articles. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.
Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room