Sep 14, 2012

Alzheimer's CareGiving Problem Irritability

I noticed there were certain times of day when Dotty would either get a very distant look on her face, or worse, a -- I've been dipped in doo-doo kind of look on her face.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Alzheimer's CareGiving Problem Irritability
I'm carefully reading the new survey that was done on caregivers by Harris Interactive in concert with the Alzheimer's Foundation of America.

If you dig down deep into the meat and potatoes you start to get a real understanding of how Alzheimer's caregivers think and feel.

Take irritability as an example.

About 58 percent of caregivers say irritability is a caregiver problem, and most say it happens a few times a week or daily. Only 38 percent say they handle this problem well or very well.

Big problem, huh?

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This started me thinking about Dotty. For certain, Dotty was extremely irritable when we started out. Every day for sure.

After 14 months or so, we started going to the gym 5 times or more each week. It wasn't easy getting Dotty to go. However, after exercising Dotty would remain in a good mood for a few hours. I remember telling people, these are the best 3 hours of our day. Somehow the exercise wore off after a while.

I didn't realize it at first, but after exercise time I gave Dotty lunch and then pretty much ignored her for hours on end. Well sometimes, this assumes she didn't start to "wreck havoc" which in those days was an almost cdaily occurrence.

Of course, when I tried to convince Dotty that she shouldn't be doing what she was doing, or that I would do it for her, what happened? She would become irritable, angry, confused, or aggressive. Mostly though, she eventually went into her bedroom, got into the bed, and refused to come out.

Talk about frustration. Horrible.

After a time, I noticed there were certain times of day when Dotty would either get a very distant look on her face, or worse, a -- I've been dipped in doo-doo kind of look on her face.

As soon as this happened I would think every single time, uh oh, this isn't going to be bad. Sure enough, war.

After a time, I decided I would either "get out in front" of these episodes (they usually came around the same time each day); or, I would take positive action as soon as I saw "the look".

This eventually lead to taking Dotty out of the house and into the bright light in the late afternoon, or early evening, every day.

This worked two times over. First, I beat Dotty to the punch, I did not giver her a chance to get irritable, angry, confused, or ready to "wreck havoc."

Second, the bright light made Dotty happy. It changed her mood completely. Often from -- I've been dipped in doo-doo --  to happy camper.

The combination of bright light and doing something really helped to improve Dotty's overall demeanor. As it turned out, it also changed Bobby's demeanor. I'm Bobby by the way.

At night, usually around 9:37 PM Dotty would get all nutty, frantic, and irritable. This one usually fell under the category of sundowning. Dotty insisted she had to start cleaning, cleaning the house. She was really frantic.

In the beginning I often wondered, why doesn't she get all frantic like this at 2 in the afternoon? I could let her clean until her heart was content and then she would need a nap. After a time I realized this problem and its dimensions were bigger than I thought.

How did I solve the 9:37 PM problem? I started moving Dotty around at 9 PM, and then made sure we had ice cream or some dessert in front of her before 9:30 PM.

Not only did this work, over time Dotty forget about cleaning and started focusing in on ice cream.

If you are having problems with irritability, etc, take action. Get into a routine. Keep the person who is deeply forgetful active and doing something.

By the way, Harvey really made a big difference. He kept Dotty entertained, and ultimately become her best friend. Harvey is an excellent caregiver assistant.

Bob DeMarco
Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The ARR knowledge base contains more than 3,811 articles with more than 306,100 links on the Internet. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room