The following answers are from a family caregiver, Cinthia Lim, to questions posed in our Facebook group, Fighting Dementia With Hua Hee.
Question: Why Is My Loved One With Dementia Behaving Like This?
Answer: I think she’s just going through a lot of transitions in her own mind there are a lot of losses (memory, independence, etc) that she’s probably trying to adjust. It’s like a depressed person who just went though a lot of changes, it’s the same for mom. Persons with earlier stages of dementia tend to be more sensitive as they are floating in and out of awareness, and it’s actually very scary for them when they have to change their routines for something else. She may be watching TV purely because she simply is unable to do or plan the same hobbies she used to do, and that makes her insecure, thus the frustration and apathy.
Sometimes doing nothing is better than doing too much. There is more value in spending good time with her watching the mindless TV programmes and laughing over senseless jokes with her, just letting her remember this joy and love, than to force her (and spend 💰) for the day care that she doesn’t like. She’s already good and obliging to go, some elders don’t even want to wake up for the transport or turn up at all. She’s probably obliged because she values her daughter’s request, but that may not be what she want.
It’s not easy, but it may help to just take a step back from all these frustrating and difficult moments and remember her as your mom, and just be with her. She just needs this familiar emotional outlet which she may also have difficulties releasing due to her dementia too. Spend some effort to understand her frustrations, and you will approach her in a different way, and in return, see the change in her as she becomes more relaxed and comfortable.
It’s the most difficult with family members, as we are too familiar with each other. If you find it’s not within ur capacity, may need to outsource this joy to elder-sitters. But really, nothing beats having own family’s love, so hopefully can find a way out of this. All the best!
Question: Whenever we ask her to do things for her own good (like exercise or activities), she refuses to do any of them. At home, we realised that when we try to get our loved one to do things for her own benefit, she doesn’t like it. But, when we position it as doing this or that to help us, she’s a lot more willing to do it. Does this approach work?
Answer: Yes, it does. But for persons with dementia, it’s always important to make sure that the thing you ask them to do is practically “failure-free”, especially for the first time. Because they are so insecure and unsure about themselves, a task that is too tough for them to do can make them feel (even) more demoralised, destroying their motivation to do things… so just start off with something very small and you know well that she is able to do. Eg. pouring a glass of water for you, helping you to fold clothes etc. Before proceeding to do more like going out to buy things, there is a need to assess her abilities before deciding on the choice of activity.
Exercises comes in different ways. Since she used to be a homemaker, think along lines of household chores that are safe and she can do one. Eg. Avoid hanging clothes on bamboo sticks/mopping/cooking — but choose easier tasks like folding clothes (fine motor skills), meal preparation like beating eggs, plucking vegetables (fine motor skills/let them walk to obtain the ingredients, etc).