Jul 10, 2017

Misguiding Arguing – Avoid Becoming a Victim

Persons with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia are prone to argue - some more than others.

By Monica Heltemes

This may frustrate caregivers, as the person may be arguing a point or circumstance that is clearly not true.

Why is this? According to the dictionary, arguing is defined as "driving or persuading by reasoning". Another definition states “to present reasons for or against a thing”.

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You see the common thread: arguing involves reasoning.

Reasoning is one of the early cognitive abilities affected in dementia. Other cognitive limitations include memory impairment and disorientation to time and place, causing details of events to get mixed up.

Last, verbal skills last long into the disease process. The result at this stage is that the person can argue a point to death, but the logical thinking that generally accompanies a true argument (per the definition above) is flawed.

We could call it Misguided Arguing.

Here a few examples that on the surface would make you scratch your head in wonderment.
  1. Why does mom want to go make supper for the children when she now lives in a care facility with no children to care for?
  2. Why does dad insist he can drive, even when a bent fender shows otherwise?

Misguided arguing is the answer and this is the disease.

Their arguments come out of their current reality created by their current brain functioning. For mom, in the previous example, she is living back in time in this moment and the kids need their supper. She may not rest easy until she is reassured that they have been fed. Perhaps she can be told the kids are eating at the neighbor's house tonight.

Dad, may be a harder case to verbally redirect. But you may disable the car engine or create a flat tire when he is not around, to diffuse his desire to drive when it comes.

Avoid being a victim of misguided arguing. Arguing back with the person who very strongly believes in the time and place they are currently experiencing does not work and will usually make it worse.

Instead try to redirect, reassure, and remember it is the disease.

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Monica Heltemes is a practicing occupational therapist and owner of MindStart™. MindStart designs hobby-style items, such as games and puzzles, specifically for persons with memory loss. They keep persons with dementia active, while giving support to caregivers, and are quick and easy to use. Visit MindStart (Activities for Persons with Memory Loss) to learn more.

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