A Caregiver Asks: Do they choose not to listen when you tell them something? Or, do they not comprehend?

The short answer is yes to both of these situations.  Dementia, in its many forms, is a devastating brain disease. This makes it very hard for any of us to know and/or understand how someone will respond in the moment. Depending on what part of the brain is affected and what connections are working or not working at the time, reactions vary leaving caregivers questioning what is happening and why.

Do they choose not to listen when you tell them something?

Perhaps and here are a few reasons why:

  1. She is not feeling well and wants to be left alone.
  2. He doesn’t recognize you and sees no reason to respond to you.
  3. You keep saying the same thing to her and her answer is the same. She wants you to be quiet and go away.
  4. It gives him a feeling of control. Not answering is a response.

Or, do they not comprehend?

This is very often true. The brain controls all of our functions.

  1. Hearing, vision, balance, reasoning, emotions, any or all can change at any time. Their behavior can be affected for moments or altered forever
  2. When they can’t hear you, they won’t respond.
  3. When they can’t see well or their balance is off, they often resist getting up and walking.
  4. When the ability to understand cause and effect is gone, they will continue to do and say things that you repeatedly ask then not to do or say.

How do you cope with all that?

You do the best you can in the moment. When it gets too hard and you are frustrated and angry, go to another room and take some deep breaths. Cry; scream, pray, do what helps you.

Connect with other caregivers either in person in a caregiver support group or online. Learn as much about dementia behaviors as you can. They are not acting out on purpose and your reactions are normal.

What you need is support and understanding. You will always find it here.

Bobbi Carducci

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A Caregiver Asks: My Wife Keeps Asking for Her Deceased Mother. What Can I do?

I Miss You

My wife keeps asking for her mother who has been gone for more than 20 years. What can I do to convince her that her mother is gone?

The sad fact is that you will not be able to reason with her about this, and it will be painful for both of you if you continue trying.

Here are some reasons why:

  1. Her short-term memory is affected and she will forget what you told her and ask again repeatedly.
  2. Learning anew of her mother’s death will cause her to grieve all over again.
  3. She may think you are lying to her and become suspicious of everything you tell her.
  4. She may try to leave her home to find her mother.

Here are a few are a few suggestions to try instead:

  1. Tell her that her mother loves her very much and would be with her if she could.
    1. Mom is visiting a distant relative and will be back in a few days.
    2. Mom is at work.
    3. Mom has gone to the store and will be back soon.
  2. Ask her to tell you about her mother.
    1. Did Mom make the best pies or cookies at holiday time?
    2. What are some of the things she loved to talk about with Mom?
    3. Doe she look like Mom or just the opposite.
      1. Share pictures of them taken when she was growing up.

It may help to take your wife into another room. Sometimes a change of scenery will help distract her. Play some music you know she likes or put on a favorite television program she always enjoyed. Some people with dementia love vintage reruns.

It is important (and difficult) for us to remember that we must enter their world and not expect them to understand ours.

Bobbi Carducci, CCC, CCE

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