Nursing Home or Live In For Alzheimer s Patient: How Do I Cope With Constant Negativity In My Home?
One of the most challenging aspects of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia can be the negativity.
While it may start out subtle and even seem intermittent, as the dementia progresses it often becomes more constant and more obvious. Someone who has always been negative but been able to filter her thoughts, not saying the first thing that pops into her head loses that ability.
So she can seem much more negative with time and progression of the dementia.
Do you remember Sophia on The Golden Girls?
Sophia was the character played by Estelle Getty. Sophia was Dorothy’s mother, who came to live with the other ladies after her nursing home burned down. Sophia had had a stroke and lost the ability to filter what she said.
With the magic of television—and great writers and actors—it was funny.
In real life?
Think exhausting, frustrating or even tragic…
When Janet’s mother Margaret moved in with her, initially Janet knew the adjustment would be challenging.
She never expected just how physically and emotionally exhausting caring for her increasingly negative mother would become. It was one constant complaint after another, or so it seemed to Janet.
No matter what Janet did, she always felt it was not good enough for Margaret.
Soon Janet found herself crying and upset often by Margaret’s harshness. It seemed to Janet as though Margaret deliberately hurt her.
Margaret’s doctor diagnosed Alzheimers disease. She explained that a loss of filtering mechanisms is part of the disease. And someone who has always seemed negative or even hidden it well, can become more negative as the disease progresses.
In talking with her brothers and sisters, Janet realized Margaret’s negativity was there all along. Just intermittent, and usually only overtly negative one on one.
As Janet learned more about Alzheimer’s and how to care for those with it, she found her life slowing improving. And she adjusted to the challenges of choosing between a nursing home or live in for Alzheimer s patient.
So how did Janet begin to cope with the constant negativity in her home?
Janet took the following three steps to start…
- Ignoring negativity…
- Changing her response to the negativity…
- Changing the channel.
How do you ignore negativity?
One way is to simply not respond to it. For example when it’s safe to leave the room, go into another room.
How can you change your response to negativity?
Not getting upset about it is a start. While ignoring the negativity is one way to change your response, another is to acknowledge the pain the Alzheimer’s person must be feeling.
When Janet started saying things like, “I’m sorry you’re so angry” and “I’ll not do that again” it seemed to help. Janet took responsibility for all kinds of things she had no control over. It seemed to calm Margaret, and by the time something similar happened again Margaret forgot about the first incident.
What does changing the channel mean?
Well, it can mean changing the subject. Gently changing the topic, steering the Alzheimer’s patient onto a more positive one.
When Margaret would complain, Janet would gently ask her what she wanted for a snack. Or if she’d like to set the table if it was close to a meal. The distraction often redirected Margaret to a more positive topic.
In Janet’s case, it also meant changing what was on television. Janet noted Margaret’s negativity increased when the news was on. So she substituted old comedies such as The Golden Girls and The Andy Griffith Show. Janet bought DVDs and played them for Margaret. Sometimes all day long.
Janet noticed some improvement in Margaret’s mood, and went along with Margaret when she talked as though the characters in those comedies were real.
And Janet learned to take the good moments, no matter how fleeting, and treasure them in her heart. Moments like when Margaret would grab Janet’s hand and say, “I don’t know what I’d do without you.” Janet’s caregiver stress became less with time.
What do you do when you’re too tired to search for something positive?
Well, you can have something positive automatically delivered to you daily.
One of Janet’s brothers could not bear to see the changes in Margaret regularly. So he did not visit daily. He did like to find jokes, and instead called Janet every day with a joke.
It made Janet laugh which reduced her stress, and because the jokes were suitable for children when Janet shared it with Margaret, they both often laughed. In this way he could feel a part of the caregiving beyond providing financial support.
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