“What Day Is It?” Handling Incessant Alzheimer’s Questions with Patience and Understanding

July 20, 2009 at 11:31 pm Leave a comment

“What day is it?” “Where do we live?” Will you take me home?” “Do you know where my husband is?” I’d answer my mother’s questions again and again. “Mother, we live in Jacksonville. Remember? We moved here six months ago.”  She had Alzheimer’s . “Where do we live” became my Mother’s most asked question. As a daughter and caregiver, I felt like I was going to pull my hair out because my first reaction was to try to answer her.

Learning how to be patient and understanding was a lesson I needed to learn–and fast.

At first, I tried to answer her questions. Wrong idea. 

I had to get it through my head that my mother’s brain was like a Teflon pan. Nothing was going to stick! Once I let that go, I could love her just as she was. Yeah, it was a bit chaotic, (okay, a lot chaotic!) but Alzheimer’s has a way of simplifying people in a good way. She was still my mom and it was my turn to appreciate her in a new light.

Many care persons (nurses, doctors, CNA’s) have years of experience and have figured out how to deal with Alzheimer’s questions. I’ve interviewed some of them and they’ve given me some great suggestions.

5 Tips to Handling Alzheimer’s Questions:

  • Realize that if you start to answer a particular question for a second time (that day, that hour), then it’s not going to stick.
  • Change the subject. Ask them if they like the colors in the lap blanket they’re holding. Tell them about your day–anything that breaks the pattern.
  • Don’t try to convince them that their mother is no longer living (or whoever they’re asking for). Instead, use this as a chance to ask them about their relationship. “You miss you mother, don’t you?” “Did your mother used to brush your hair?” “Did your father teach you to ride a bike?” If that time is more real for them than today, then let them enjoy a memory or two and resist the urge to convince them of today’s date.
  • Even though they can’t remember your name or what they had for breakfast, they can remember the past. If you notice that they remember a particular time period, then have a conversation about that time period. Ask them what they were doing during the war.
  • Neither join their fantasy world–or force that they “see reality.” Sometimes our loved one’s fantasy worlds are very real to them. The problem is, their world can turn scary and dark and if we “use” it or participate in it, it may backfire. It’s best to not comment.

 You’re their quiet foundation, and it’s difficult to see your loved one less aware of the here and now. I had to learn not to get emotionally engaged in my mother’s “world.” My primary ” job” was to keep her safe, to make sure she took her needed medications, and to do all I could to assure her that was loved. My hurts, fears and concerns had to be resolved in other ways. I journaled, took walks, sat by the river, read spiritual books and relied on my husband and friends to keep me going. And on really bad days, I’d go sit in my car in the driveway–and scream. Nothing feels better than a good, long guttural scream.

My mom needed me, and your loved one needs you.

Patience and understanding sound so noble, but the truth is…there’s only way to get these virtues. You have to do the time and practice it under the hardest of circumstances. Keeping my head and heart in the right place was the only way- and remembering when to laugh…or scream in the privacy of a parked car.

Entry filed under: brain fitness, caring for parents, elder care, family caregiving. Tags: , .

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This Blog

Hi, I'm Carol O'Dell. This blog will include stories and lessons I've learned while caring for my mom, and now as I speak to caregivers around the country. I hope to offer suggestions, ideas and insights that will help others.

While this blog is supported by Dakim Brain Fitness, I’m not blogging to promote the Dakim company or products. Instead, I’m writing about how caring and being cared for affects your life and your family. My hope is that this blog gives you a place to learn, reflect, gain new perspective to make it another day.

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