If you are not actively searching for solutions, you are part of the problem.
By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room
Yesterday I read what I considered to be a rather nasty complaint from an Alzheimer's caregiver. The caregiver complained that her father ruined Christmas for everyone especially her because he was grouchy and yelling at the kids.
I conjured up an image of what it would be like for someone living with Alzheimer's to be exposed to a bunch of unruly kids running around and yelling and screaming.
I asked myself, what would my reaction be? Well if the kids were playing and having a good time, I might smile. On the other hand, if the kids were being loud and rude, I might be thinking something like, why don't their parents step in and ask them to behave?
But, if I saw someone living with dementia that was clearly distress about the behavior of the kids and acting out, I know exactly what I would do.
First, I would move the person to another room or another area of the house. No, I would not leave them alone, and no, I would not put them in front of a television.
In our home, I would move them to the kitchen area and I would have one or more adults sit and talk with them. I might suggest some discussion around pictures, or old times.
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This situation reminded me of the many times that Dotty and I have visited the Banana Boat in Boynton Beach.
As we walk up the ramp to the outside bar area I can feel Dotty starting to hold back. Two things are happening. First, it is starting to get noisy. Second, Dotty is starting to see what must look to her like a wild and crazy group of people.
As we move into the outdoor area I can actually feel Dotty starting to withdraw. She moves forward with great reluctance, her feet start dragging, and she starts to shrink. It is like she is getting ready to fall over on her face.
A quick look at her face would tell you that she is either confused, worried, or ready to turn around and go back in the other direction (go home).
In order to deal with this I have to talk to Dotty in a low calm voice and offer lots of positive encouragement. I reinforce her by reassuring her I am there, and nothing bad is going to happen.
We now have good luck because many of the people know Dotty, and the first thing that happens is that they start to meet her with great enthusiasm and a smile on their face.
There is never a seat available but I know that someone is either going to get up and give Dotty their seat, or someone is going to be told to get up and give Dotty their seat.
Two things I never do. First, I never sit Dotty way up in the front where the live music is loud, and the hustle and bustle is the at the highest level. Two, I seat Dotty so that she is not facing the hustle and bustle and is looking directly across at people who are seated.
When we first started going to the Banana Boat, Dotty would ask constantly, when are we going home? Now, one hundred percent of the time when I say to Dotty, time to go home, she asks me why we are leaving?
And now to the point the point of this article.
Did the person living with Alzheimer's ruin the day for his family? Or, did the woman who complained that he ruined the day, ruin the day for him?
Why don't more Alzheimer's caregivers ask themselves, why is this happening? Or, what can I do about this? Instead of complaining.
I learned it is a lot easier to examine the source of a problem, and then change the dynamic to resolve the problem. In this case, move a person living with dementia to a less stress filled area.
I think many of us know that Alzheimer's patients don't like excessive noise, and excessive stimuli (too many people in one confined area).
I also know that many caregivers conclude they cannot take a person suffering from Alzheimer's to large family gatherings, or into large groups.
If you fall into this category ask yourself why not? Learn to massage any and all environments to make them dementia friendly.
There are problems and their are solutions for persons living with dementia.
If you are not actively searching for solutions you are part of the problem.
I am convinced that the vast majority of Alzheimer's caregivers want to be part of the solution.
Like me you might think, something has to change. In my case I finally learned that something was me.