The more confused a person living with dementia becomes the meaner they get. On the other hand, greater activity on their part creates better awareness and self esteem.
By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room
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1. When a person living with dementia is left alone it is very easy for them to get angry and confused.
Persons living with dementia lose the ability to tell time. Not only what time it is, or what day it is; but also, duration of time.
When you go out, or are unseen for a short period of time it would not be unusual for the person living with dementia to accuse of being gone all day. Has this happened to you?
When you leave a person living with dementia alone they get confused. They might then accuse you of being up to something.
This anger and confusion often leads to what you might describe as meanness on the part of the person living with Alzheimer's.
Are they being mean? Or are they confused?
When I told by caregivers that their loved one is often mean to them, I always ask, do you leave them alone during the day, or for any extended period of time during the day? The answer is frequently, yes. This alone time is often the main source of anger - otherwise know as meanness.
You just can't leave them alone. So if you are doing something as simple as running to the store for milk you only have 2 alternatives. Take them with you (no matter how arduous), or get someone to sit with them whole you are gone.
2. You cannot reason with a person living with Alzheimer's, and it only makes things worse.
Take the example above. I would run to the store. When I returned my mother would be confused and angry. I would try to explain to her that all I did was run to the store. The more I tried to explain, the worse it became. Has this happened to you?
If you find yourself trying to explain something to a person living with dementia more often than not it won't work, they will get angry (mean), and you will make the situation worse.
Try to remember it is not about you.
They might accuse you of doing something wrong when in fact you didn't so anything wrong. Get over it.
This is what happens when a person suffers from dementia. It is a part of the disease. If they could remember they wouldn't accuse. If they could remember you could explain. But they can't remember. So if you keep on doing this you will continue to get the same result - anger and meanness.
Do you try to convince your loved one to take medication? It won't work. Try this.
Are you trying to convince your loved one to take a shower? It won't work. Try this.
3. One of the best ways to diffuse anger and meanness it to keep an Alzheimer's patient active.
If you want a better caregiver result you need to get active and keep the dementia patient active.
One of the things I would do was take my mother to Walmart and let her ride around following me while driving the motorized shopping cart. I know you might be thinking - my loved one won't be able to do it. Have you tried it?
Don't cajole. Just take their hand, guide them into the seat of the cart, and demonstrate how it works. And, away you will go. Many caregivers tell me they were reluctant to do this. But finally, they gave it a try, and it worked.
An activity like this raises the self esteem of a person living with dementia. Dementia patients tend to be "happier" and "more aware" after engaging in simple activities.
Have you ever considered going to the "dog run".
This is the place where dog lovers take their pet after work, or in the morning on weekends. Many Alzheimer's patients love animals, and watching animals. Not only will they have fun you will too.
Dog lovers are very friendly and before you know it, you will be talking with them. Let me upgrade what I just wrote. Dog lovers are often wonderful people. They might just be very kind to you, and your loved one. Have you tried this one?
You might also try the greatest caregiver tool of them all -
4. The ordinary and cumulative acts we perform each day can and do make a difference.
In order to help keep your loved one happy and thriving you have to get into a routine. In other words, don't let them sit around an watch the "boob tube". It is called the "boob tube" for a reason.
Would you like to sit around and watch television all day long? I doubt it.
You have to get out in the sun or take a trip to the mall if your loved one is up to it. Go to McDonald's and sit outside (or inside if it cold) and have a coffee or ICE CREAM cone.
Get moving. Go see a friend. Go look at the flowers. Get out. I know this can be difficult and it was with my mom, Dotty.
It was not easy to get Dotty ready to go out, or even to get her into the car. On the other hand, if I didn't do something we were both going to have a miserable day. So the effort was worth.
You are not a bear. So don't live in a cave, and don't hibernate.
Get active. Get some happiness into your life. I know it isn't easy. But, I know you can do 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 5,000 articles. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.
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