Jun 13, 2013

Dementia, Change the Bad Behavior to Good Behavior

Did you ever think to yourself,  I wonder if I could change the bad behaviors into good behaviors? I did. And then,  I did it.

Bob DeMarco

+Alzheimer's Reading Room

I wonder if Alzheimer's caregivers think about patterns of behavior when it comes to caring for someone living with dementia?

Most persons living with dementia evidence patterns of behavior that drive Alzheimer's caregivers "nuts" or worse.

Did you ever think to yourself, I wonder if I could replace the "bad" patterns with "new and good" patterns of behavior?

I did. And then, I did it.

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Patterns of behavior.

All Alzheimer's patients evidence patterns of behavior. Some of the patterns are simple -- like asking over and over what day it is. Others are more complex. One reader told us her husband was shaving four times a day and his face was getting "raw". Others pace. The list goes on and on.

My mother was evidencing all kinds of patterns of behavior -- doing the same crazy things at the same time of day or night -- over and over.

At approximately 9:37 PM, at night, my mother would get up and announce that she needed to start cleaning the house. I am talking every night. Imagine trying to explain to someone living with Alzheimer's disease that it is night time and you don't clean at bed time. I'm not sure how many times I tried to explain this to Dotty, but I do know this, it didn't work.

My mother would wake up at approximately 1:29 AM, get out of bed, open up our front door, take a few steps and look around. After a few minutes she would come back in and get in bed. Same thing at 4:29 AM. Each and every time, I would get up out of bed, stand back, and watch her do it. I did not intervene. After a year or so I finally started to understand why she was doing this.

I could do on and on about patterns of behavior in my mother. Patterns ranging from the way she walked on the treadmill, to how she looked in the freezer and unwrapped frozen food and then threw it back in.

One by one I spotted them all through simple observationa and recording them in a note book.


Patterns of behavior.

I came to a conclusion through those observations, talking to other caregivers, and the comments here on the ARR.

Most, if not all, Alzheimer's patients have patterns of behavior -- some good, some bad. Most people without Alzheimer's have patterns of behavior also -- they do the same kinds of things around the same time of day, over and over.

Patterns of behavior bring homeostasis into our lives. Having well defined patterns of behavior brings comfort, organization, and a sense of stability into our lives. The fact that we live a life of patterns also helps explain why most of us don't like change. And, why we resist change.

I thought to myself, what if I could change my mother's bad patterns of behavior and channel her energy into more positive patterns.

I decided to introduce an entirely new set of behaviors and actions into our lives. Over time I introduced one new behavior after another until we reached the point where our day was organized in a way that made each day very similar to the one that came before it.

Our day had a very well defined pattern and so did our daily actions and activities.

Here is a simple example of how it worked.

Instead of waiting for my mother to ask me. "what day is it". Meaning what day of the week. I put the newspaper in front of her each morning and asked her, "what day it is it". Then, what is today's date? She would read this to me from the top of the newspaper.

I also bought a great big clock and put it on the wall right in front of her seat where she couldn't miss it. I also asked what time it is? I did this two or three times a day. It cured her repetitive behavior of constantly asking me, what day is it?

Over the years I cured my mother of meanness, getting up in the middle of the night, urinary incontinence, and the dreaded bowel movement problem. I did this by introducing new patterns of behavior and news tools into our daily equation.

Did it work perfectly -- no. But it works.

Here is a good example that you might find instructional and of interest. My mother wanted to "clean house" around 9:37 PM every night. How did I cure that one. Care to guess?

Answer, ice cream.

Around 9:15 I would get my mother up, get her to take a pee, and then put on her pajamas. Then we would go out in the kitchen and she would eat ice cream. By the time we finished it was well past 9:37.

She stopped trying to clean at night.

Dotty had ice cream almost every single night from 2005 to 2012.

I wrote previously about most of our major issues: meanness, pee, poop, and my own metamorphosis as an Alzheimer's caregiver.

You can find all of this information by using the search box on the right hand side of every page, and searching through our Knowledge Base of over 4,000 articles. Go ahead try it, put in a word like -- poop. You might be surprised on what you find.

Exercise is another good example. We have loads of information, including scientific research, on exercise and the benefits of exercise for persons living with dementia.

Believe it or not, it can be a lot of fun working on changing patters of behavior from bad to good. Most often the new pattern of behavior is fun.

One thing is certain, if you change something from bad to good your level of strees will go down. Next thing you know you will be laughing and smiling about that old behavior that drove you crazy.

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Bob DeMarco
Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR). Bob is a recognized Influencer, speaker, and expert in the Alzheimer's and Dementia Community Worldwide. The Alzheimer's Reading Knowledge Base contains more than 4,000 articles, and the ARR has more than 343,000 links on the Internet. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.
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