Arguing with a person living with dementia is a common caregiver practice. Eventually caregivers learn this doesn't work, and it only makes things worse. What can you do about it?
By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room
I received an email today from our long time reader, Jean. She reminded me of these two little words - don't argue.
I remember when I argued with Dotty every day. Guess what -- it made our lives miserable.
I wonder what percent of Alzheimer's caregivers argue - like 98.6 percent? Do you argue?
I was at "wits end". Dotty would tell me to get out, and she didn't need me. I would try to explain she couldn't live without me. The argument ensued.
Dotty would end up in her bedroom curled up in a ball. I would end up in the living room with a heartache and stomach ache. I couldn't figure out what to do.
Then I made it to Alzheimer's World. And next thing you know I came up with a good idea. Simple really.
So when Dotty said get out, I did the exact opposite of what I had been doing. I put my arm around her, put my head on her head, and said, I'm not going anywhere. I'll take care of you.
Guess what happened? Dotty didn't go into her bedroom, she accepted what I said. No heartache for me. From this I started thinking - maybe I should just do the exact opposite of what my instincts told me to do.
So instead of trying to explain I cut out all the Blah Blah Blah.
I then replaced the Blah Blah with guidance. I became a guide. All you need to become a good guide is a smile and your hand.
As time went on I started to believe that caregiving was really about keeping things simple. Why try so hard? Why make things so difficult?
When things became difficult I often said to myself, What is - Is. Just accepted and figured out a simple way to deal with problems. It surprised me over and over how the simple solution was always the best solution.
I learned the importance of routine. People living with dementia really like routine.
I patterned our life on the movie Ground Hog Day. Amazingly, I started using our time effectively - learning how to do new things that worked. Instead of being all negative and a constant complainer.
Eventually I learned that people living with Alzheimer's just want to be happy. Go ahead read it a couple of times. No doubt in my mind they just want to be happy. I'll write and explain that tomorrow.
As caregivers it is my belief that we live meaningful and purposeful lives. How many people do you know that accomplish what we accomplish? What could be more meaningful than caring for someone who needs you so much?
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To husbands and wives who care I say - congratulations, you really meant what you said when you were married. You are living a meaningful and purposeful life.
To the sons and daughters who care - congratulations. You are wonderful son or daughter and everyone that knows you, or even if they don't know you, knows that this is true. You are living and meaningful and purposeful life.
“There is a difference between success and purposefulness. Success is what happens to you. Purpose is what happens through you. Meaningfulness is what you give away to others.” - Bob DeMarco, Alzheimer's Reading Room
Don't argue - Meet Meanness with Kindness. If you do much of the meanness will disappear.
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Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR).
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