Dec 15, 2011

My Alzheimer's Patient Makes Me Smile and Makes Me Feel Happy

I am not "ruing the day" and there is no heartache or stomach ache. Now a days, I look forward to hearing Dotty say, YouWho, I am awake you know.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

My Alzheimer's Patient Makes Me Smile and Makes Me Feel Happy
Dotty and the
Georgia Bulldog
It wasn't always this way. In fact, when I first started caring for Dotty it was horrific. Constant heartache and stomach ache. Five days a week. Oddly, Monday and Tuesdays were always good days way back when.

In the beginning, Dotty was meaner than a junkyard dog. And, well, she was acting kind of crazy. They usually call this challenging behavior. That is putting it mildly don't you think?

If you want to know the truth, near the beginning I decided I would "will Dotty back to her old self". I really believed I could do it. I thought, I'll bury her under a large daily dose of positive reinforcement and wait for the change to come.

It didn't work. Not exactly anyway.

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I had the right idea that is for sure, but as it turned out, it was the positive within me that finally made the difference.

Change came with the realization that it was not about me, it was about Dotty. I realized something had to change. To be more precise, something had to change and that something was Me.

One night, actually in the early AM, with da Vinci pad in hand, I stumbled into the Bunkhouse in my mind. By that time I could come to only one conclusion, if I wanted my old Dotty back, the only way I was going to get her back was by doing the things we had always done.

So I started by thinking about what Dotty did as a normal part of her life before the dreaded dementia took over.

I thought, well, when she woke up the first thing she did after her pee was open the door and get the newspaper. With newspaper in hand she would get a cup of coffee and start reading.

I thought this is what we will do. Along the way I realized it is important to help a person living with Alzheimer's to keep track of time and do things, like read. So, I had Dotty read me the day and date from the top of the newspaper.

Wo. She stopped asking me 20 times a day, what day is it today? Don't get me wrong, she cannot tell you what day it is today, what month, or even the year. But she can still read it to me from the newspaper. For some reason it helps.

Which gets me to my point of the day.

Each morning we start with the newspaper. Dotty might remark about a story on the front page. Since the story is usually bad news, Dotty usually remarks about how bad things are, or how she doesn't understand how people are going to be able to live under the current circumstances.

Did I mention we did not do this routine for the first two years, and Dotty was duller than dull? That Dotty didn't smile and we didn't even talk much.

Did I mention that before we started doing our morning routine I was already "ruing the day"? Thinking to myself, here we go again,and not in a good way.

This morning Dotty and I read the paper. When we arrived at the food section we discussed a recipe. We smiled and laughed together.

Or yeah before I forget, did I tell you that Dotty and I came in second place in the Homemade Memories Recipe contest. They even published our recipe in the cookbook. Take a look at the contest webpage.

I don't want to mislead you. I didn't get all of my Dotty back. I did learn how to understand, cope and communicate with Dotty. Once I arrived in Alzheimer's World I started to believe that the sky was the limit. I hope you understand what I mean.

Yes, Dotty's memory is shot, but I gave up worrying about that a long time ago. I mean you can't control it, so why not figure out what you can control and focus on that instead.

Dotty and I are having a nice time this morning. I am not "ruing the day" and there is no heartache or stomach ache.

Now a days, I look forward to Dotty saying, YouWho, I am awake you know. Believe it not, her voice is stronger now than it was many years ago.

The best part is she can still read the paper and make me laugh with her observations.

Near the beginning, each Alzheimer's caregiver must decide, is the glass half full, or half empty? Guess what, it doesn't matter. Your goal should be to fill that glass up.

We all start with half a glass.

Do you have a morning routine? Care to share it with us?

More Insight and Advice for Caregivers

Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The blog contains more than 3,101 articles with more than 452,100 links on the Internet. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room