How do we deal with dementia behaviors in a safe way?
Answered by David Troxel
I am caring for an 88 year old aunt who nearly died last July of sepsis because she didn't understand what her doctors were telling her and allowed herself to become very ill. She beat the odds and has recovered from surgery with a colostomy and much memory restored after months of recovery.
We moved to this city to be near her in her Assisted Living place, and now she has decided that she is going home - to live alone on top of a mountain. She was born with one hand, and insists she can care for her ostomy bag alone, which AL says she is not doing.
She wants me to hand her the car keys, but my family and I feel that this would be a dangerous act. She is getting very angry because she doesn't understand that we had to consolidate her bills and accounts over the past nine months just to manage her affairs. She is my mom's only sibling, and never married.
Do you have any advice on how we can deal with her dementia in a safe way, without causing WWIII? Thanks!
Even the best caregivers can become the bad guys now and then. It sounds like she is in a safe place and that it isn’t an option for her to go home.
Here are a few ideas:
Show empathy and understanding. It’s only human to want to go home. Ask her for more tales about her childhood and life on the mountain. Reminiscing can lift her mood.
Blame the doctor. Sometimes families will say to their relative that it’s simply doctor’s orders that they receive a higher level of care. Your aunt may respect medical authority.
Be authentic. Let her know that it’s never easy getting older but that this new community will provide her with great food and company.
Offer hope. Sometimes it can placate her if you say that you are hearing her loud and clear, and that the family can schedule a meeting later in the year to review options.
Meanwhile, readers of this blog will know that one of my favorite lines to use is that she needs to stay in this setting, “to build up your strength.” This can focus her on therapy and exercise and help her feel that there is a goal to her being present.
Keep her busy - boredom is the enemy. Brainstorm with the staff about her engagement to see if you can find a sense of purpose or special chore or job for her at the building.
I hope that you can get over this rough period and that she will settle in more in the coming months.