Dec 3, 2018

I Finally Realized Alzheimer's Was the Enemy - Not My Mom

I wondered if instead of complaining, could I replace the "bad" patterns of behavior that come along with dementia - patterns of behavior that were driving me crazy - with "new" more positive patterns of behavior?

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By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

One of things I noticed very early on in my care giving effort for my mother, Dotty, was that she was engaging in very distinct patterns of behavior.
  • Not only was she engaging in a long list of behaviors that were driving me crazy, day in day out, she was often doing them at the same time of day.
We even had a very distinct macro pattern that was occurring every week. Monday and Tuesday were good days. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday can best be described as a slow decline into the abyss.

But the crazy part happened when my mother would go into her bedroom around 8 PM on Saturday and not come out until 7:09 PM on Sunday plus or minus two minutes.

You read that right. I would sit in the living room on Sunday and wait. If we made it to 7:07 PM I would think the same thought every time. She'll be out in the next four minutes. It happened every time.
  • Now here is the crazy part. On Saturday night my mother would start refusing to talk to me, go into her bedroom and nothing I could do or say would get her out.
By Sunday she was madder than a junkyard dog. But, when she walked into the living room on Sunday night she was smiling and happy. She acted like nothing had happened.

I had a 23 hour stomachache for almost 2 years.

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And then it finally happened. I had my great epiphany on May 7, 2005 at 1 AM in the morning,

Along with that thought I decided that I would systematically figure out how to change all of it. All the bad.

After about three years of caring I had finally become very good at it.

Here is the good news. It won't take you that long because once I figured it out, I started writing away on the Alzheimer's Reading Room. And along the way, we started receiving tips, advice, and solutions from wonderful caregivers from all over the world.

You know what I learned and noticed? The best solutions are usually very simple.

The hard part? Figuring out those simple solutions. Whew.

Over the years I solved the problems one by one. This is why it took me so long. Amazingly, my list of problems to attack would get longer and longer all the time. Alzheimer's and Alzheimer's behaviors are a never ending moving target.

I figured out 

  • How to get to take her medication. 
  • How to get her to take a shower without turning it into World War 3. 
  • How to get her to pee on a schedule. 
  • How to get her to exercise. 
  • How to get her to go in the pool.
  • And eventually, I figured out how to get her to cooperate.

I am pretty sure that most of you know what I mean.

Do you face these types of problems each day?
  • On May 7, 2005 I stopped complaining and venting and became a problem solver.
I developed an attitude over time that I could solve any problem. I had confidence. I successfully rewired my brain.

I started to remind myself constantly that

It Was Not Her Fault.

This seemed to calm and relax me. It allowed me to focus on the problem, and not how I was feeling.

  • I turned burden, anger, confusion, and discombobulation into Joy. 
It is so satisfying and fulfilling when you get on the right track that is hard to describe. Wonderful is a good word.

Watching the look on Dotty's face, her new and better attitude were joyous for me. No, it was not perfect, Alzheimer's always figures out a way to slap you in the face and make your stomach hurt.

I finally realized Alzheimer's was the enemy, not my mom.

By now you might be wondering, How did I stop the nasty problem that happened every Saturday night right into Sunday night.

The 23 Hour Stomachache

What did I do?

I started taking my mother out for a ride in the car on Saturday night before she could get into her bedroom and hide. 

The ride would result in stop for ice cream and coffee somewhere along the way. Usually at a place like McDonald's. It is pretty warm here in Florida for most of the year, so we could often sit outside and talk.

  • I did not have to do that forever because once the bad pattern is gone, once it disappears so to speak, it never comes back.
As many of you know, once we started living our life, I took Dotty out every Friday night. And even when she was in her 90s we sometimes went out around 6PM and didn't get home until 11 PM.
  • My mom was once again that "amazing old broad" I always knew.
To learn more about my views on changing patterns of behavior read this article,

How to Change Patterns of Behavior in Alzheimer's and Dementia Patients

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Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR). Bob is a recognized expert, writer, speaker, and influencer in the Alzheimer's and Dementia Community worldwide. The ARR Knowledge Base contains more than 5,000 articles. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

Originally published in the Alzheimer's Reading Room

"I now include the Alzheimer's Reading Room in my list of caregiver resources for every dementia patient I work with".
Rita Jablonski-Jaudon, Director, National Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence at UAB

The goal of the Alzheimer's Reading Room is to help everyone to better understand, cope, and communicate with a person living with dementia.

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