I wondered if instead of complaining, could I replace the "bad" patterns of behavior that come along with dementia - patterns of behavior that were driving me crazy - with "new" more positive patterns of behavior?
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By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room
One of things I noticed very early on in my care giving effort for my mother, Dotty, was that she was engaging in very distinct patterns of behavior.
- Not only was she engaging in a long list of behaviors that were driving me crazy, day in day out, she was often doing them at the same time of day.
But the crazy part happened when my mother would go into her bedroom around 8 PM on Saturday and not come out until 7:09 PM on Sunday plus or minus two minutes.
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You read that right. I would sit in the living room on Sunday and wait. If we made it to 7:07 PM I would think the same thought every time. She'll be out in the next four minutes. It happened every time.
- Now here is the crazy part. On Saturday night my mother would start refusing to talk to me, go into her bedroom and nothing I could do or say would get her out.
I had a 23 hour stomachache for over 2 years.
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And then it finally happened. I had my great epiphany on May 7, 2005 at 1 AM in the morning,
Along with that thought I decided that I would systematically figure out how to change all of it. All the bad.
After about three years of caring I had finally become very good at it.
Here is the good news. It won't take you five years because once I figured it out, I started writing away on the Alzheimer's Reading Room. And along the way, we started receiving tips, advice, and solutions from wonderful caregivers from all over the world.
You know what I learned and noticed? The best solutions are usually very simple.
The hard part? Figuring out those simple solutions. Whew.
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Over the years I solved the problems one by one. This is why it took me so long. Amazingly, my list of problems to attack would get longer and longer all the time. Alzheimer's and Alzheimer's behaviors are a never ending moving target.
I figured out
- How to get to take her medication.
- How to get her to take a shower without turning it into World War 3.
- How to get her to pee on a schedule.
- How to get her to exercise.
- How to get her to go in the pool.
- And eventually, I figured out how to get her to cooperate.
I am pretty sure that most of you know what I mean.
Do you face these types of problems each day?
- On May 7, 2005 I stopped complaining and venting and became a problem solver.
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- I turned burden, anger, confusion, and discombobulation into Joy.
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Watching the look on Dotty's face, her new and better attitude were joyous for me. No, it was not perfect, Alzheimer's always figures out a way to slap you in the face and make your stomach hurt.
I finally realized Alzheimer's was the enemy, not my mom.
By now you might be wondering, How did I stop the nasty problem that happened every Saturday night right into Sunday night.
The 23 Hour Stomachache
What did I do?
I started taking my mother out for a ride in the car on Saturday night before she could get into her bedroom and hide.
The ride would result in stop for ice cream and coffee somewhere along the way. Usually at a place like McDonald's. It is pretty warm here in Florida for most of the year, so we could often sit outside and talk.
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- I did not have to do that forever because once the bad pattern is gone, once it disappears so to speak, it never comes back.
- My mom was once again that "amazing old broad" I always knew.
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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 ARR Knowledge Base contains more than 5,000 articles. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.
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"I now include the Alzheimer's Reading Room in my list of caregiver resources for every dementia patient I work with".
Rita Jablonski-Jaudon, Director, National Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence at UAB