Are you dealing with an Alzheimer's patients that is mean and ornery? Or, sometimes mean and hard to deal with?
Did you know that past a certain stage dementia patients cannot be left alone?
Not even for a very short period of time.
By Bob DeMarco
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Early on in my caregiving career I learned a very important lesson.
You cannot leave a person with Alzheimer's alone even for a very short period of time.
After a while I started noticing that whenever I left Dotty alone, and when I came back she was often mean and angry. This lead to a very bad period. Sometimes this period lasted for hours and sometimes it lasted for days.
Basically Dotty was unhappy and I was unhappy. Unhappiness does not breed contentment and cooperation.
How did I discover both this problem and the solution? I finally put one and one together and made three.
Sometimes I would go out to throw out the trash and while out talk to a neighbor. I might be gone for 15 minutes. When I returned I could tell by the look on my mom's face that she was upset.
Then, I started noticing that when my mother would talk to my sister at night she would tell her, he was gone all day, I don't know what he is up to. Clearly Dotty was confused. I had been with her the entire day with the exceptions of those 15 minutes.
As should be obvious, when Dotty accused me of "being away all day, and being up to something" I would get angry. And yes, I would correct her with a detailed explanation of her "wrong thinking".
Of course this didn't work. In fact it only made things worse, and it made our relationship worse.
I also noticed that when Dotty didn't see me, even if I was a few feet away, she would would start saying loudly,
"Bobby, Bobby, where are you"?
If answered quickly this seemed to
Sometimes Dotty and I would be in different rooms and she would start saying loudly, "Bobby, Bobby, where are you"?
If I yelled from the Florida room, I'm back here in the Florida room, well this really didn't work well. It was not enough reassurance for a person living with dementia, and quite frankly, Dotty probably no longer knew where the Florida room was.
I soon learned that if I got up and yelled, I'm coming. Then when I arrived where she was - looked her in the eye and smiled, waited for her to smile back at me, and then said, "I'm right here", it seemed to reassure her in a very positive way.
I could tell both by the look on her face, and by how she acted in the aftermath of this situation that everything was going to be okay.
I had finally learned after much heartache and many hundreds of stomachaches that
you cannot leave a person who is deeply forgetful alone.
At a certain point in the progression of dementia you cannot leave a dementia patient alone - even for a very short period of time.
They rely on us so much that they cannot stand to be out of our presence. They become both worried and confused.
If you leave them alone, you will suffer the consequences. Meanness, difficult, and challenging behavior that will ruin your day, day after day after day. If you are having this problem - sudden meanness, challenging behavior, and sudden mood changes pay attention to what has happened right before these types of behavior - pop up.
These kinds of situation can be very burdensome for a caregivers. They can make you angry, cause stress and ruin you day.
I did learn one good technique.
I moved the furniture around and positioned Dotty so that when she said, "Bobby, Bobby, where are you?", I could spin around fast in my chair to get her attention, give her the smile, get the smile back, and say, here I am. It worked. Don't forget the smile.
Over time this cumulative reassurance made a big difference in how we related and interacted with each other.
By the way, Dotty often did her Bobby Bobby when she dozed off on the sofa. I actually moved the computer to a strategic position so I could work on the Alzheimer's Reading Room; and then, when necessary spin around so she could see me, and get the reassurance she needed.
You have to learn to listen very closely to a person living with dementia. When Dotty said I was gone all day it was because she no longer had a real sense of time. She believed what she said to be true, and no amount of explaining could change her belief. Explaining to a dementia patient just doesn't work. Thing about it. Does explaining or trying to convince work for you?
Most Alzheimer's patients stick to their Alzheimer's caregiver like glue. They shadow us. They follow us This included Dotty.
They love us, and rely on us so much, they just can't stand to be without us.
The bottom line. You have to learn how to accept the way dementia patients act, and you have to adjust to their behaviors. If you do, you'll have a better day. If you don't you will likely be miserable most of the time.
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I know how that feels. It happened to me and I didn't like it. So I learned how to understand, cope and communicate with a person living with dementia - my mom. Once I did our life improved and we relearned how to get along. That was nice.
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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 Alzheimer's Reading Room contains more than 5,000 articles and has been published daily since July, 2009.
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