While both of my parents have varying stages of dementia, its my mom that is difficult to assist. Some days she has trouble understanding and comes across as illogical and mean. I finally was able to approach her and be the type of caregiver I needed to be by telling myself she has a head injury that has changed her personality.
When she does not like what you tell her or how you say it, she get’s mean. She squints her eyes, her lips curl into a cruel smile and she will tell you what a horrible child you are, how disrespectful you have become, or challenge you to “prove it.” The only way for me to keep the conversation from escalating is to play smiling possum. I will muster a smile and just do not respond. I can usually find a way to excuse myself, knowing that when I return the conversation will repeat. If I’m challenged to respond, I will often smile, shrug my shoulders and say “I don’t know.”
I learned the “I don’t know” trick from my dad. As the one who has been living with my mom, he found this worked to end a conversation. At times I thought his memory was really bad (he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s), but when I would talk to my dad later about the topic, he would know the answer. In many situations, answering my mom’s question would only escalate her anxiety. Instinctively, he adapted.
My mom’s doctor prescribed medication (Ativan) to relieve her anxiety, and she won’t take it. I’ve tried a variety of methods with no success.
Knowing how difficult the coming day will be when we start the physical move of my parents from their independent living apartment to assisted living, I manage to remove all the Coke from my parents home. I decided I would bring her a Coke that includes one dose of Ativan as the doctor prescribed (I offered her a 1/4 of the can mixed with the pill I ground to a powder). Coke is one of the three things my mom will drink.
During this stage of my mom’s dementia, the Ativan seems to help minimize her anxiety and improve her daily interactions with everyone.
The first thing I did when I arrived was to ask “Mom, would you like some Coke this morning?” Outed.