Jul 14, 2017

Dementia Care - Are You Trying to Convince Someone with Alzheimer's?

I finally learned how to convince a person living with dementia to do what you want them to do.

The role of understanding in Alzheimer's Care and Dementia Care.
By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

After reading Communicating in Alzheimer's World -- our reader Judy commented:
So this may work well with the eating, but how about with the going home or someone is stealing from them or trying to hurt them?

As an Alzheimer's caregiver it is helpful to understand that many of the problems you see and are experiencing each day are also being experienced by other Alzheimer's caregivers. There are a lot of common problems.

Not wanting to take a shower. Urinary incontinence. Getting up in the middle of night. Wanting to go home. Elements of fear, confusion and paranoia: someone looking in the window, stealing, blaming. The list is endless.

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In the case of Dotty. She was getting up twice during the night. Around 1:30 and 4:30 AM. She wanted to start cleaning every night around 9:37 PM. How did I solve this problem?

Dotty would go into her room on Saturday night and refuse to come out. She would come out on Sunday evening around 7:07 PM -- plus or minus a few minutes. She wanted me to close the blinds at night so people couldn't look in (an unlikely event). Someone was stealing her dolls. Someone was using her credit card. She was mean.

Like most Alzheimer's caregivers I started by trying to reason with and convince Dotty of certain things. Sometimes Dotty would actually agree with me. Relief. Sometimes the relief lasted five minutes, sometimes hours. But never for a long time. I just couldn't convince Dotty that what I believed was true, and that what she believed was not true.

  • Trying to convince an Alzheimer's patient that what they are thinking or believing is untrue rarely works. Why? Because they won't remember for long what it is they agreed too. 

More likely, trying to convince will make their day worse and more confused. Guess what happens next. Your day is not going very well. You are frustrated, stressed, and exasperated.

Think about it. If you honestly believed something was true and I told you over and over you were wrong, how do you think you would feel and react? Would you like me?

Many Alzheimer's patients have a longing to go home. It is common. Dotty wanted to go home to south Philadelphia. Actually she wanted to move there. Why? She last lived in south Philadelphia in the 1940s.

  • Many Alzheimer's patients think people are stealing from them

If you can't see your dolls, don't remember where they are, or what you did with them you might conclude someone stole them. Let me ask you. Did you ever think you lost something only to find it hours, days, weeks, or even years later? You were convinced it was gone rather than misplaced didn't you?

  • One thing that really helps an Alzheimer's caregiver is to learn and understand that other caregivers are experiencing the same things that you are experiencing. 

This really does lift a load off your back. Understanding you are not alone makes a difference.

One good remedy if you are having a problem coping or communicating with someone suffering from Alzheimer's is to join a support group. Having a caregiver you never met before tell you their mother also said over 1,000 times that she was hungry can really make you feel better.

Wow. I am not alone. This understanding feels good.

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  • Coming to an understanding that Alzheimer's disease makes the patient different helps

Alzheimer's does make patients act nutty and crazy. A person living with Alzheimer's has a sick brain. Their brain does not work like yours and mine. Sometimes this means they do things that appear to be crazy and disconcerting to you.

You really need to let this understanding sink in in order to be able to care effectively.

Are you trying to convince someone living with Alzheimer's that no one is stealing from them? How ya doing?

Are you trying to convince someone suffering from Alzheimer's that wants to go home that they are home? How ya doing?

Did it ever occur to you that you are an Alzheimer's Hamster? Maybe reading this article will help -- The Alzheimer's Hamster Within YOU.

Maybe you should be thinking about how you can connect, or reconnect with someone living with dementia.

Related Articles

The Connection Between UTI and Worsening Dementia

How to Get an Alzheimer's Patient to Take a Shower

What is the Difference Between Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Test Your Memory for Alzheimer's (5 Best Tests)

10 Things a Person Living with Dementia Would Tell You If They Could

3 Ways to End the Dementia Care Blame Game

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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