A common phrase reiterated time and again among writers is “show, don’t tell.” When you’re involved in a story, you don’t want to tell your readers that a person feels or thinks a certain way, you want to show them. It’s a phrase well-worth repeating when it comes to caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s.
The story of you and your parent’s lives has evolved. It is filled with different characters, all played by the same person—your mom or dad. In a theatrical production, it is sometimes referred to as an “ironman” cast. It’s an ad-libbed solo performance that involves a cast of characters that enter and exit from the stage for no apparent reason and in no apparent sequence. In these types of stories there is usually an underlying theme that will ultimately be revealed and one that will make sense of the various scenes.
Making sense of your parent’s varying personalities is the hallmark of a seasoned caregiver. Their sudden burst of anger may be a signal that something is bothering them, but the words just aren’t there to define and describe it. This can often occur around the issues of bathing and dressing. What the emotion may reveal is that your parent is uncomfortable or afraid of the specific activity. Telling your parent it’s time to take a shower or eat dinner will usually only evoke increasing agitation. Show them it’s time to eat by setting a beautiful table with flowers as a centerpiece and creating a relaxing mood. Then slowly begin to eat while smiling at your parent. If their anger continues, look deeper into their specific mood. Are they frustrated at meal times because it is difficult for them to use the utensils? Finger food! Are they afraid of the shower because they can no longer see the water coming from the shower head and it feels like a thousand pins and needles pounding on their back? Relaxing sea-salt and lavender bath time!
The Yes Man
If you haven’t seen the movie starring Jim Carrey, Yes Man, it may be time. At a self-help seminar, a guy in a negative and self-depreciating rut is challenged to say “yes” to everything for a full year and his world becomes filled with life-affirming and transformational experiences. This is the tactic you may very well want to take with your parent. As long as the activity is safe and places them in no harm, the answer is yes, or at least not a no. Huh? There may very well be times when you can’t do exactly what they want to do at a specific time. For instance, taking their clothes off and running in the rain may not be particularly harmful, but it is not readily accepted in our present society. In these moments, don’t try and reason or say “no”, simply redirect or divert. “Yes!” Let’s go outside (with our clothes on) and wander through the botanical gardens! “Yes!” Let’s have ice cream for breakfast. We’ll make it sugar free and double up on protein and vegetables for lunch! “Yes!” Being proactive and positive will help you and your parent make the best of this trying disease.
Home Care Provider
Time out is mandatory when you are caring for a loved one with dementia. Knowing that your home care provider is a professional that has cared for countless seniors with this disease may just give you the comfort and confidence you need to truly relax and rejuvenate a few days a week. A home care provider may very well become one of your parent’s strongest advocates.
For more information about how the caregivers at La Jolla Nurses Homecare can help your aging parents remain in their own homes, call 858-454-9339. We are a home care agency providing quality and affordable care in La Costa, CA, and the surrounding communities.