Q: Dear Nurse Regina, I am having trouble with how my mum’s mind thinks. It is all over the place and she is sometimes so rude. There are times when she is spot on and other times it seems she has given up on trying. I know things will get worse, but will she become irrational all the time?
A: Irrational is relevant to what we call “normal or the real world.” I recently read an article in the Alzheimer’s Reading Room and it really broke it down well so I will use it to guide an understanding of your mum’s condition. The article went on to explain that when our loved one with dementia becomes very forgetful much of the behaviour they express seems to be irrational to those of us who believe we are living in a rational world or “real world.” So, true we see their behaviour as irrational when we see it from our own point of view.
When we see things from our perspective “real world” we try to make sense and understand what they are doing. We often become confused, upset and sometimes angry. We may even feel hopeless and sad.
Through all the frustrations and confusions many care givers have come to the conclusion that something has to change. And they find that it is them. They conclude that the behaviours were going to be repeated over and over and realize that this is their loved ones “new norm.” Instead of getting upset about it, they decided to learn the “new norm” or “world.” A lot of the behaviours are driven from forgetfulness. For example, a person turns on the water tap to wash their hands and walks away without turning off the tap or drying their hands. That person doesn’t remember that it is important to turn off the tap. They forget how to do things.
In order for caregivers to be effective and not to make things worse they learned to get into the new world which is very well known as “Alzheimer’s World.” Alzheimer’s World is a place where the deeply forgetful reside most of the time as the disease progresses. Caregivers have found it as a place to cope and help their loved ones.
So if you can go to Alzheimer’s World and find your mum, you will find a new world of communication at a level that is “spot on.”
Q: Dear Ms Posvar, my husband has dementia and recently he has been having fear of people breaking and entering our home. We have bars on the windows and I lock all the doors. I think he sees things. What can I do to calm him down? The doctor gave me some medication for him. It helps him \sleep, but I don’t want to give it to him every night. Are there other things I can do?
A: So sorry he has fear. His fear is very real to him. Try not to argue with him when he says he sees something. Accept that they are real fears. When you do lock up bring him along to help you as this may help prevent them. If not, get up and lock them with him when he starts to voice the fear. This will validate that you are in his world. Maybe a night light will help. This season may pass. Alternatives to medication will be different approaches on reassuring that he is safe. Think about what he did in the past to make sure everyone in the home was safe. Ask yourself if anything has changed in his routine to cause the fear? Is he at a different time zone where old routines are needed for his comfort? Creativity and patience are the key to less medication.
Remember to care for yourself. If the episodes are causing you to lose a lot of sleep you will have to adjust this. You need sleep and sometimes the person with dementia does a lot of wandering at night. Natural remedies may help. You also may want to have another family member take turns with staying awake with him. It can be managed with support from family and creative ideas.
Quote ~ Who ever loves much, performs much and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well.
I look forward to hearing your questions or suggestions to help share Alzheimer’s Awareness. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call/text to 486-4509