Jun 21, 2014

Our Refrigerator Doesn't Cry Anymore

In Alzheimer's World sometimes doing exactly the opposite of what your brain tells you to do works best.

Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Our refrigerator doesn't cry anymore. There was a time when it cried at 1:30 AM, 4:30 AM, and often during the day.

Always Be Kinder Than You Feel

For the longest time it drove me crazy. The sound of it beeping made me angry, disconcerted, and the in aftermath left me confused. I complained about it, vented to anyone who would listen for the longest time.

Eventually, I learned to understand, cope and communicate. That finally happened after I made my first big step to the left and entered into Alzheimer's World.

Oh what a relief it was. But now, right now, I can't help crying, and thinking

Be Careful What You Wish For.

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From an article I wrote five months after Dotty went to Heaven.
It isn't easy to leave the door open on our refrigerator. It will swing closed on its own. 
There are two exceptions. If you open it all the way open and hold it for a bit. Then it stays open. 
The second is if you stand in front of it so it can't close. 

Beep....Beep...Beep. It won't stop crying. 
Morning, noon, night, middle of the night, 4:30 AM our refrigerator would start crying. 
I could lay in bed hearing it cry. Count the beeps. After 27 I couldn't stand it. I couldn't stand the sound of the refrigerator crying. It was driving me crazy. 
Dotty couldn't hear its cries
So Dotty would stand there with the freezer door open, unwrapping frozen foods to see what was inside. 
Or, stand in front of the refrigerator making a sandwich. No, she didn't grab all the component parts of the sandwich and put them on the counter and make her sandwich. She would grab one component at a time, put it back, grab the next component, use it put it back, and so on until she had her sandwich. 
It didn't matter whether she just had lunch five minutes ago, she wanted another sandwich. 
Our refrigerator cried out to her, close me. Please close me. Dotty couldn't hear the refrigerator crying. 
In the beginning I would try to explain to Dotty. You have to close the door on the refrigerator. She would get upset, go into her bedroom, get in bed and refuse to come out. Trying to explain only made matters worse. 
Trying to help Dotty by suggesting we get all the component parts out and make the sandwich together didn't work. Bedroom time. 
Trying to explain to Dotty what was in the freezer didn't work. Bedroom time. 
The worst of all, trying to explain to Dotty you just finished eating. 
Breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Didn't matter. Dotty was hungry. Bedroom time. 
These episodes went on for years. Nothing I tried worked.
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Of course, I complained to anyone that would listen about these episodes. We call this venting. So this is how we are supposed to cope. Vent. 
Venting is useful and effective up to a certain point.  
Does it really help to complain about the same thing over and over and over? 
Do the people you are venting too really want to hear it for the 50th or 100th time?  
Or do they start avoiding conversation with you? 
Would you listen to them complain about the same thing over and over
In Alzheimer's World  you often have to learn to accept  behaviors that are unsettling, confusing, and make you angry.
The person living with dementia does not understand why you are all bent out of shape. And, beyond a certain point in the disease they won't even know what you are talking about in a few minutes. 
I just went in and opened the refrigerator door. The first time I opened it I walked away. It didn't start beeping. I went to look at it. It closed the door itself. 
So I swung the door wide open, and then proceeded to watch and listen. After a bit, I thought, it must be broken. No beep. But then finally,  
I wasn't angry, confused, or unsettled. It made me cry.
How in the world could I ever miss that Beep. The cry for help. The cry for help. 
In order to cope with Alzheimer's you often have to accept. Accept the way things are and that they might never change.
In order to communicate with a person living with Alzheimer's you often have to meet behaviors that seem unsettling with an equal and completely opposite behavior.
These equal and opposite behaviors usually include: patience, compassion, and kindness and love.
When a person is being mean to you, you can be mean right back to them. Good luck in Alzheimer's World. 
In Alzheimer's World it is best to meet meanness with kindness, compassion, and love. An equal but completely "opposite behavior". 
The only way I know to stop someone living with Alzheimer's from being mean is to meet them with a completely opposite behavior. Meet meanness with kindness, understanding, compassion and love. 
Put your arm around them. Or, hold on tight. 
In Alzheimer's World sometimes doing exactly the opposite of what your brain tells you to do works best.
You get to decide and choose. Keep blaming the person living with Alzheimer's for their behavior. Or change. Change you. 
Bobby D's law. Meet mean, unsettling, and confusing behaviors with a completely opposite behavior. 
Or, just keep on coping and communicating the way your are. Let me know next year if you are still "complaining". 

I just went in and listened to the refrigerator beep for a while.

I didn't feel angry or confused. I felt sad. It made me cry.

Be Careful What Your Wish For.

Very careful.

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Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room