4 Disturbing Dementia Behaviors and How You Can Go From Frustration to Connection

fromfeartolove

Often the behavior of someone with dementia is so changeable and unpredictable it’s almost impossible to figure out what is going on, leaving the caregiver confused and frustrated. Why is your spouse confused with you and so alert when someone comes to visit? Why does your mother, who is usually calm and agreeable, suddenly become angry and aggressive? “Why do you do that?” you may ask.

Alzheimer’s and the other forms of dementia are devastating brain diseases. Connections affecting behavior and memory work intermittently in the mild to moderate stage resulting in good days where one might question they even have the disease to bad days when their world and yours seem to spin out of control with no warning.

Their brain is sending them messages as real to them as your thoughts are to you. The person with dementia is terrified. The caregiver is at her wits end. The situation can escalate and sometimes may even become dangerous. What just happened, you may wonder. Things were fine a moment ago.

Take a few deep breaths to calm yourself. People with dementia may not understand your words but they do sense your emotions. If you are tense their tension will rise creating a worsening situation for both of you.

Try to determine what their behavior is telling you. Behavior is communication. Body language can speak volumes when words fail. Here are four examples of common dementia behaviors and how your response can get you from frustration to connection:

  1. One moment Mom is happily sharing breakfast with you and the next she is terrified of the stranger sitting across from her. No matter how hard you try, you cannot convince her who you are and that she lives with you now.
  2. Mom not recognizing you tells you that her brain has taken her back in time. Ask her how old she is. If she is in her thirties and you are still a child, go there with her. Smile, tell her your name and ask her to tell you about her child. Share some of your memories from that time. You may end up having some precious moments with her.
  3. Your father, who celebrated his retirement five years ago by playing golf as often as possible, is now demanding you give him the keys to his car so he can get to work on time. His job was important to him and was a way to show his love for his family. Tell him it’s the weekend or his day off. Ask him what he has planned for the following week and listen to his ideas. Let him know how much you appreciate all he does for his family.
  4. Your loved one keeps trying to get out of the house insisting she wants to go home even though she is home and you moved in to take care of her. When someone with dementia wants to go home you may think she is referring to the last place she lived. However, it could be her childhood home or the first apartment she had as a newlywed. It could be that she doesn’t feel safe in the moment and needs the feeling of comfort that being home brings to everyone. Tell her that she will be home soon and ask her to tell you about her favorite room. You may be surprised at where she is. Wherever she thinks of as home, go there with her. If you have any pictures from that time or place show them to her and spend some time listening to her stories. You may learn some surprising things about her and her life before you came along.
  5. Every evening like clockwork, your husband begins to pace the floor and mumble incoherently, becoming more and more upset as he tries to make you understand what he’s trying to say.Trying to understand someone whose words are incomprehensible is extremely hard. You would respond if only you knew what he was trying to tell you. The harder you both try to communicate the more frustrated you both become. You won’t suddenly become fluent in his language. In this case your words are not as important as your tone and body language. If he is agitated you need to create distance between you and speak quietly, assuring him you understand. You may not, but that’s okay. The feeling of being understood is what’s important here. Smile and nod in agreement as he begins to relax. If he sits, you sit. Mirroring his movements is communicating in a way he can see. In time you may even begin to understand one another better.

There is never an easy answer, or one that works every time for everyone. However, going into their world works better than trying to get them to understand ours.

Bobbi Carducci was a caregiver for her father-in-law with dementia for seven years. She is a caregiver support group leader, blogger, author of the book, Confessions of an Imperfect Caregiver, Caregiver You Are Not Alone, and national speaker on caregiver issues. www.bobbicarducci.com www.theimperfectcaregiver.com Twitter:@BobbiCarducci2  Facebook: https://bit.ly/2FXw3JP

 

 

 

 

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I Don’t Like You!

I don't like youWhen it’s one of those many very bad days and you the person you are caring for is pushing every button and grating on every nerve it’s natural to feel resentful and truly dislike her or him.

It’s okay to feel that way. Most of do more quite often thorough this life changing time. However, anger and resentment take a toll on us mentally and physically.  It’s exhausting to deal with all that emotion on top of everything else you do.

What is a caregiver to do on days like that?

  1. Walk away from the person in your care.
  2. Go to a quiet place. Go to the bathroom if that’s the only place you can be alone.
  3. Take a deep breath, let it out slowly. Repeat, Repeat. Repeat. Keep repeating until you feel calm.
  4. Think of one of the very best days you ever had with your caree. Picture it in your mind. When you are ready, perhaps when you being to smile, or cry, or simply wish for that day back, go get a cup of coffee or a glass of water.
  5. When you are ready – share that memory with your love one. Hold his or her hand if they are open to it. If they are not in a mood to share just then, it’s okay. You took a bit of time to take care of you. And maybe you have planted a seed in your caree’s memory that will take root later and give them a precious moment as well.

Fireworks and Sundowning – Not a Happy Fourth of July

fear of light

As if sundowning weren’t a challenge for those with dementia and their caregivers we add fireworks to the mix on July 4th each year. A person who once loved fireworks may respond differently now. For someone with dementia, the loud pops and explosions can trigger memories of wartime experiences causing a return or worsening of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Even someone who never went to war can be deeply affected by these annual displays. The flashing lights and changing colors in the sky can trigger fear leading to aggressive behavior that can be dangerous for the caregiver and their family member. Between the community events and backyard enthusiasts, the noise and confusion can often go on for hours. While some are calling for the ban of fireworks all together others are reluctant to do away with the long held tradition that they grew up with. It’s not an issue that will likely be resolved soon. However there is some good news. Many communities are becoming more aware of the impact fireworks have on those with dementia and are taking steps to minimize the impact by using quiet fireworks that focus on colors and effects rather than sound. It may not be a complete fix but it’s a step in the right direction for many.

If that is not the case in your area, here are a few suggestions that may help make things less stressful for you and your family.

  1. Talk to the person in your care about the holiday and what it means to him or her. Listen to their stories of picnics past and how they showed their pride in their country.
  2. Encourage them to talk about fireworks. Were they exciting and fun or too loud and scary?
  3. If you live near a place where you see and hear fireworks from your home, you should prepare them for what will happen. They may not remember later but you never know what will help on day like this and it’s worth a try.
  4. Early in the day may be a good time to show them a video of fireworks. There are a number links of the displays available for viewing on social media. Turn the sound off before showing it to the person in your care. Explain that they may see these lights in the sky later that night and you will sit with them until it’s over.
  5. If even the silent display is upsetting, close the blinds and drapes in their room before sunset to block out the flashing lights. Play music he or she likes using earbuds or head phones if possible to mask the noise. If these devices are not available or practical in your situation, play the music anyway and sing or dance along with it to distract them, they may even join you.

Behavior is communication and their actions always include clues as to where they are and how they feel. It is when we enter their world rather than insisting they live in our reality that true understanding comes to us, the caregivers.

Bobbi Carducci was a caregiver for her father-in-law with dementia for seven years. She is a caregiver support group leader, blogger, author of the book, Confessions of an Imperfect Caregiver, and national speaker on caregiver issues. www.bobbicarducci.com www.theimperfectcaregiver.com Twitter:@BobbiCarducci2 Facebook: https://bit.ly/2FXw3JP

 

 

Win a FREE trip to the National Caregiving Conference in Chicago

holding hands
The Imperfect Caregiver is honored to be among those who will be presenting at the Third Annual Caregiving Conference in Chicago, November 9th and 10th.  For a sneak preview of the presenters Caregiving.com is having a virtual summit May 14 – May 24.

Virtual Caregiving Summit

Our virtual summit, featuring conversations with our National Caregiving Conference presenters, begins May 14 and ends May 24.

Check back to watch our video chats about how we found our best selves during caregiving. This year’s conference theme, Our Best Selves, encourages us to look at how we do our best during an experience that feels like the worst.

When you watch our videos and share a comment, you’ll be entered into a chance to win a trip to Chicago to attend our Third Annual National Caregiving Conference (NCC18). In your comment, please tell us why you’d like to join us in Chicago for NCC18.

View the National Caregiving Summit online and meet the presenters that will be speaking at the National Caregiving Conference in Chicago this coming November.

When you watch the videos and share a comment, you’ll be entered into a chance to win

I hope one of my followers is among the winners!

 

 

 

She Doesn’t Remember Me

via She Doesn’t Remember Me

FREE Caregiver Conference April 18, 2018

 

HaChaterfield VA Keynote Flyer April 2018

Have you attended a caregiver conference? If so, what topics drew you to the event? What would you like to see addressed at future events? If you have not attended a caregiver conference would you attend if there was respite care provided at the event?

The Need to Educate Employers on How to Support Working Caregivers

Click on the link below to hear my presentation to members of the Loudoun Senior Interest Network at Ashleigh Retirement Village in Lansdowne, VA on March 7, 2018.

This group of senior professionals in the caregiving industry are wonderful to work with.

http://bit.ly/2G1gjXX

Use the comment form below to share your thoughts on this issue and/or to arrange a presentation at your workplace, care facility, church, or civic organization.

 

 

Caregivers Need A Team of Helpers

This is part one of a presentation I did recently.  Follow the imperfect caregiver on YouTube for more videos like this.

I always appreciate hearing from followers. Please post your comments in the form below:

 

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

broken heart

When it comes to care giving, sometimes love doesn’t enter the picture at all. People with dementia behave in ways that try us to our very limits. Waking each morning wondering what new hell this day will bring causes anxiety, resentment, grief, and anger.

You may have loved your parent, your spouse, your sibling, or your grandparent for many years, but when dementia takes over and the person you knew is gone, replaced by a stranger trying to escape from you, refusing to bathe, and accusing you of all kinds of terrible things, love can be forgotten. Sometimes it’s gone for only a moment or a day or two. Sometimes it dies leaving duty in its place and we grieve while they still live. Sometimes we pray for the end to come and are overwhelmed with guilt for even thinking such a thing.

However, it’s not death we wish for, we don’t really want that.  We wish for the pain to end.  Theirs and ours.

It is because we care that we started this journey.  It is because we care we carry on when we think it’s no longer possible, even when we wake up each morning wondering what new hell this day will bring.  For deep inside they remain who they once were and so do we. We rise and enter their world ready to keep them safe another day.  And that’s what love’s got to do with it.

Please share your thoughts in the form provided

Christmas Past May Be the Best Present

“Christmas will be just another day in our house. Mom doesn’t know what day it is anyway.”

And that’s true. She doesn’t know it is  Christmas present but she may remember Christmas past and that may be the way to connect with her and bring a little happiness to your day.

Most of us save ornaments from year to year and some of them become family favorites that become little treasures of happy times. Forget about putting up a tree and having to deal with all that entails.  If you can do it without too much trouble, bring out one or two of the ornaments that adorned the trees in your home when you were growing up.

I remember making red and green chains out of construction paper as a child. Mom saved them until the glue dried out and they fell apart. Seeing even a picture of one makes me smile. I made some with my kids when they were little. Perhaps your family made them too. Even if they are long gone a picture of one may do the same in your home.

When my kids were little we had a large Styrofoam Santa head smiling at us from over the mantle each year. Now all my children have one to hang in their home. I won’t need a tree or lots of fuss to evoke Christmas when I am old. Seeing that Santa head will always connect us and bring back memories.

Hearing traditional Christmas carols may inspire an unexpected sing-along. And if your family is anything like ours you may want to include some of the less traditional ones like, Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer, I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, or Santa Baby to mix things up.

If friends or family members ask what you want for Christmas tell them to forget about certificates for spa days you will never use. Tell them to stop by and bring a vintage Christmas card for your loved one and spend some time with them to give you a break. That’s what you really need and want any time of the year.  The gift of time is priceless.

Do you have a favorite ornament or Christmas song that evokes Christmas memories that connect you and you loved with Christmas past? If you do, feel free to share them here.

 

 

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