Aug 24, 2014

3 Things Every Alzheimer's Caregiver Should Know and Understand

If you troll around in places like Memory People, message boards, and even in the comments section of the Alzheimer's Reading Room there is one theme you are going to see over and over (and I mean daily), people complaining about the actions and behavior of their loved one living with dementia.

3 Things Every Alzheimer's Caregiver Should Know and Understand

Now some people describe this complaining as venting. But when does venting turn into complaining?

1. When you vent, complain, about the same thing over and over guess what is going to happen?  You are going to find that people disappear. They will reach a point where they just can't take it anymore. Your constant complaining brings them down and drives them away.

Of course, with the Internet you can complain and complain until your heart is content and there is always someone to listen. But does constant complaining really make your heart content. Or does it turn you into a negative person who is to be avoided?

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By Bob De Marco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Don't get me wrong. There is plenty of good information, help, and real support on places like Memory People, message boards, and the Alzheimer's Reading, all provide a valuable service to the Alzheimer's and dementia community.

2. Stop Complaining and Do Something About It

Let me start by saying that I was one of those complainers. It took about 18 months before I finally got sick and tired of listening to myself.

I Couldn't Take Me Anymore

If I couldn't stand my constant complaining why would anyone else be able to stand me? I had to address that issue.

It was at that point that I stumbled into Alzheimer's World.

Once in the World, Dotty's World, I started wondering why? Why does Dotty engage in all this mean, disconcerting behavior that is driving me crazy?

As soon as I started relaxing and asking myself why, I started to get a grip on was going on in her head. I finally had something important to think about.

Why did Dotty said over and over,

Get out, I Don't Need you Here, I Can Take of Myself.

Was she being intentionally mean spirited? I mean who wants to hear get out when they are caring for a person 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?

Do you know how much that hurt me hearing Dotty say that? I bet you do. It hurts.

Once I started listening I finally realized a few things.

First, Dotty was easily confused. When she got confused she lashed out. Of course, I was too deaf to understand this for the first 18 months.

I began to understand that Dotty was always worried, scared to death actually, that I was going to put her in a "home".  Put her away. Once I fully understood this I knew I had to do something about it. Constantly, every day. over and over. I had to address this issue.

3. Always Meet Meanness with an Equal and Opposite Reaction.

So what could I do about Dotty tell me to "get out" almost every single day? I gave it some thought. And then, I decided to meet meanness with kindness.

Dotty would get mean and I would go over, put my arm around her, put my head on her head, and say in a calm reassuring voice.

I am not going anywhere and neither are you. I'm here to care of you.

Pretty simple don't you think?

Guess what happened? After a while Dotty stopped telling me to get out. In fact, she rarely if ever said it again after a while.

Now some people will say, I can't do it. I can't meet meanness with an equal and opposite reaction. Oh yes you can. Sure it might take some practice. But what else do you have to do during those 24 hours of caring? Start practicing.

When you meet meanness with kindness and reassurance you will start feeling good about yourself. Once you start feeling good about yourself, you will stop complaining.

Once you start feeling good instead of complaining you will get thirsty for solutions to problems. You'll go from the negative to the proactive.

After a while you will come to a new realization in your care giving effort. There are no problems there are only solutions to those problems. You will feel so good about yourself that you will reach a psychological and emotional state where you think anything is possible. You will discover that caring is an art, not a chore.

Once you start feeling good about yourself, your loved one, the person living with dementia, will start feeling good about themselves. Let me assure you, persons living with dementia start to mirror the behavior of their caregiver.

They want us all the time don't they? They want to know where we are, when we are coming back, and what we are doing all time?

Is this true or not? Go down to the comments section below this article and answer that question if you have the time.

If you complain it will become burdensome. If you become kind, gentle and reassuring it can only lead to one outcome,

The Immense Joy that comes with caring for a person who needs and relies on you so much.

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Bob DeMarco is the Founder and Editor of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR). Bob is a recognized influencer, speaker, and expert in the Alzheimer's and Dementia Community worldwide. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

The Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR) offers a searchable Knowledge Base that contains over 4,886 articles. Those article, as well as our featured articles, are offered free of charge to the entire Alzheimer's community via the ARR website.