Friday, February 12, 2016

How To Respond To Dementia Related Behaviors

"I can't believe what my husband did", "You are not going to be believe what Mom is doing now to aggravate me", or "I am sure that Dad is doing what he does to get attention. He knows better and I will tell him so".

This is heard over and over by family members, caregivers, and even patients.They simply can't believe their loved one is doing what they are doing, saying what they are saying.

This could be repeating themselves constantly, or it could be shadowing, it could be flipping the channels on the tv constantly, could be many different things.

What happens here is family members, or caregivers try to correct or stop what ever the patient is doing.

Here's something you won't hear anywhere else, yet it is absolutely true. You can't stop these annoying traits that patients pick up. You can try, but it won't work.

We are wired as human beings to tell someone who is doing something annoying to stop. This just isn't how it works with dementia. If it was that easy, we wouldn't have the issues that you encounter with dementia patients. It isn't that easy. Period.

You will have good intensions of trying to get your loved one from constantly following you from room to room, being by your side every waking second. This is called "shadowing".

The patient does this because they have a fear of being alone.How do I know this? Because I have done this on many occasions. Once this starts, the only thing that can change this, is the patient.

You will read suggestions on how to stop "shadowing", but that's all they are, suggestions. What you are essentially doing is trying to get a person with a brain disease to realize what they are doing has to stop.

In short, good luck with that. Whatever it is the patient is doing, they are doing this unknowingly. In other words its like an involuntary thing.

They don't set out in the morning having a plan to follow you around all day. That simply doesn't happen. To do this they would have to have the ability to plan and execute this and they don't.

The very best advice I can offer caregivers when these things happen is to deal with it. Sounds simple. It isn't of course. But trying to change these things that the patient is doing is just not going to happen.

Say for the sake of argument something you did indeed stopped them from shadowing. My guess it would only be temporary and short lived at best.

The only thing that will stop these quirks is the patient themselves for whatever reason stop doing them.

Your loved one for example is not going to follow you around till the day they die. In time this will stop. If for no other reason then they are no longer capable of walking.

Or there will come a time that they won't repeat anything. What may happen is they lose all communications skills. The will simply become mute.

For example, I ask Phyllis June about five times every morning, "what day is this"? She tells me, and five or ten minutes later I ask again. I don't ask again because I forgot what day it is, I ask again because I forgot I even asked her in the first place.

And instead of her doing this long drawn out thing of explaining that she just told me this ten minutes ago, or she would somehow try to help me remember what day it is, she simply tells me what day it is. Knowing I am going to ask again in just a few minutes.

You see she has learned over a period of time it does absolutely no good to try to figure out how to get me to remember what day it is. None. I don't have the ability to remember that because I have no short term memory.

Do this with your loved one. Instead of wasting your time and theirs on trying to figure out how to help them remember something, just give them an answer to their question.

You see we try to micro manage what is going on here. We think, what is it I can do to help your loved one remember? In the grand scheme of things family members or caregivers lose site of the truth. You can't help patients remember.

It is much simpler, and will keep your stress level down some. Just realizing what is happening you cannot fix, or change.

Another thing to keep in mind is, as bad as some of these habits are, there can be, and probably will be worse ones coming.

 If they would stop following you or shadowing you for instance, they may pick up another trait that is far worse in your mind.

The bottom line her is don't be surprised at what your loved one is doing. And you can try to help them with it, but it will most likely be useless.

You will just become more frustrated than you are after telling them time and time again to stop something or whatever it is.

Just like with everything when it comes to dementia, we all want to "fix" whatever it is our loved one is going through. The problem is that is a noble thing to try to do, it simply isn't that easy.

©  Rick Phelps  2016