FRANTIC Behaviour Disrupted My Neighbours – I just didn’t know what to do
Q: Dear Regina, honestly I didn’t know what to do when my wife woke up from a bad dream screaming that someone was trying to hurt her and when I tried to calm her and explain it was just a dream she ran out of the house screaming “help”! Neighbours came to see what was going on and she was telling them that I was trying to hurt her. It was terrible and so stressful. I had to sleep outside while my neighbour stayed inside with my wife to calm her. I cannot keep doing this and I am not getting much sleep. How do people deal with this kind of trouble?
A: I trust you have taken her to the doctor if this behaviour has been frequent. Have the doctor check any new medications to see if this is causing nightmares or if she has a cold, flu or some illness brewing. Get a full check-up and make sure tests are done to inquire about brain changes such as strokes, mini strokes often called (TIA). Sometimes this takes time to get the results.
In the meantime your doctor may prescribe medication to help with sleep for both of you. Be alert and ask questions about the medication and know the side effects. It may not be the best choice for you. It can increase falls.
Dealing with the behaviour at the moment of distress: Whenever a person is in a panic/scared mode and you tell them to “calm down” or they are dreaming or it is not real, they will instantly see you as the one hurting them. The person who is in a “heightened” panic state of mind needs validation of what they are experiencing. If you are not feeling their fear they cannot process you as comfort. They will want to get away from you. You must learn to get in their reality and be at their level. Be scared with them. Say things like: “Where are they? Let me go lock the doors! Give them the feeling you believe them and help them get to safety. You have control at this time and you can start to tone your voice down to soothing and they will automatically start to match your tone but you must meet them at their tone first. This kind of response of course takes a little practice and you become creative on how you use your words to support them in their reality.
Learn more about challenging behaviours and how to deal with them by taking classes. There are online classes and workshops available through local Alzheimer’s Associations in your area.
Q: Dear Ms Posvar, I went to the doctor last week in Canada and they gave me a mini mental test to check my memory. I do not have the results yet but I am worried I failed it. Will this test give me a diagnoss of dementia? I do forget things more than I used to.
A: A mini-mental is not an assessment, it is a screening tool. If you did not do good, it usually tells the examiner that something more needs to be investigated to cause the low score. The mini mental screens a variety of thinking areas and it is a good tool to use for most people to see where their thinking is and especially if you are already diagnosed with dementia you can use it to monitor the decline.
There are people with mild cognitive impairment that pass the test with flying colours so it is not a tool to diagnose. It is however, a tool used along with other tools and tests. If I were to give you just that test, and your score was low, it would prompt me to give you a copy and take it to your primary doctor to order lab test to check areas that can cause you to have problems with your thinking or any other symptom you might be experiencing. There is no One test that can diagnose dementia or Alzheimer’s. It is a process of elimination when the person is alive. A functional MRI or FMRI while the person is alive is a scan that can help in confirming a diagnosis of dementia. An autopsy is the only time a person can have a confirmed diagnosis at this time.
It is recommended if you have any symptoms to have these tests done to aid in preventive care. A low score with any screening is an indication to check further. Try to remember that early detection is the key to prevention or slowing the onset of dementia.
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