I feel confident when I say this -- you won't be able to convince a person who is living with dementia that you are right and they are wrong.
Alzheimer's Reading Room
The day I learned to embrace my mother's reality was one of the happiest days of my life.
Embracing her reality was like giving her a great big hug; instead of, slapping her in the face by correcting her, or embarrassing her by making her look like a fool.
A person living with dementia can't remember like you or me, so they really cannot comprehend what you are saying when you try to correct them.
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Like most caregivers, I had trouble accepting that the new behaviors my mother was engaging in after Alzheimer's set in - were normal. It is really difficult for our brains to do this.
Put it this way, you know a person all or most of your life and then all of a sudden they change. This sudden change is hard to accept.
In fact what actually happens with most dementia caregivers is they start saying the person is mean, or driving them crazy, lying, or (fill in the blank).
The typical caregiver starts complaining to anyone that will listen (I am not talking about venting, I am talking about constant complaining about the same thing over and over). Guess what happens? People stop listening, and many disappear from your life.
This indicates that the caregiver has not accepted the person living with Alzheimer's.
I know what all of this is like because I did it myself. I did it and it took me 18 long months to realize I was doing it. When I finally realized that I was making it all about me, and not about my mom I finally realized something had to change. And,
That Something Was Me.
This is when I found Alzheimer's World.
Alzheimer's World is kind, gentle, loving, caring place. This is where we go to when we realize that all of the behaviors that are driving us crazy are normal for a person living with dementia.
The neurodegenerative disease in their brain is causing this to happen. These odd, crazy, and different behaviors on the part of the person afflicted with dementia are not on purpose - they are being caused by the disease in their brain.
Cases in Point.
1. When it appears that a person living with dementia is lying.
None of us likes to be lied to, or to listen to a lie. When this happens we often feel the need to act out. To correct. To set the record straight.
So how did I feel when my mom, Dotty, would tell this lie over and over?
The lie - she never took a pill (medication) in her life. She would go on to say - "I'm a healthy old broad." And how did I react. I felt an overwhelming need to correct her in front of everyone. Keep in mind she was 90 years old when she did this.
Once I made it to Alzheimer's World, I finally started to understand that caregiving was not about me, it was about my mom. It was about her needs.
How did I change?
When she would tell her medication lie I would just keep my mouth shut and observe. The amazing thing was that everyone she told this to over the years - believed her. They would be mesmerized. They would become animated and just so very happy for her.
What happened to Me?
I accepted she was going to continue saying this every chance she got. She did. But, as a result of my new found attitude and acceptance I actually ended up happy myself. When all those people acted so happy and amazed it made me feel happy.
I actually concluded that Alzheimer's was not as bad as I thought. It could actually make the person living with dementia and everyone around them happy. Go figure, huh.
The day I learned to embrace my mother's reality was one of the happiest days of my life. Embracing her reality was life giving her a great big hug; instead of slapping her in the face by correcting her, or embarrassing her by making her look like a fool.
2. When a person living with dementia repeats themselves over and over.
My mother would say at least ten times a day - "I'm Hungry, "I'm Starving". She would say this even right after she had just eaten. And, I am talking about a big meal sometimes.
What did I do?
I would tell her she just ate and couldn't possibly be hungry. Of course, this would upset her and sometimes she would go in her room and refuse to come out for hours. How did I feel? Rotten and sometimes heartbroken.
What was wrong with me?
After I made it to Alzheimer's World and when mom would say - "I'm Hungry, "I'm Starving" - I would simple say something along these lines - "Okay, give me a few minutes and I'll make you something to eat". Instead of running for cover she would smile and seem content. How did I feel when she smiled? Happy!
Previously I wrote - Fragile Mom, Living with Dementia, Wants to Go Home - you can go read that for another example of acceptance and how to deal with a problem from an Alzheimer's World perspective.
You can keep complaining, or you can find the solution. You can make it about how you feel, or you can accept how they feel and do something about.
You have to learn to accept that what a person who is living with dementia does is normal (for them). You have to adjust your way of thinking. You can't keep on doing what you always did before AD.
You have to understand that it is now your job to learn how to
understand, cope, and communicate with a person living with dementia.
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Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR).
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