Dealing with Dementia

I have never had anyone in my immediate family have dementia. So when I was asked to look after a old lady with dementia I jumped at the chance to earn some money.
Turns out it was only $10 an hour…. That’s $4.50 bellow minimum wage in Australia. ok so it’s not about the money
So What Is It About
I have no clue.

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The first time I met with her, she was lovely and sweet, she kept asking who I was and why I was here.
The second time I went at four in the afternoon…. bad time of day she kept saying she didn’t know where she was and that I was keeping her locked up. her distress was so upsetting. Her carer just shrugged. Wow that was helpful.
As the day approached I began to get so anxious and scared about it! What was I a young kid going to do to settle her down?
I have no experience with dementia.
After a bad nights sleep it was the day…

Well it started off ok.

Kind of

Sort of

Not really.

She remembered that her son sent me… so that is a plus right?

But everything else was in a daze.
She was angry and frantic.
How dare her son not tell her I was coming oh dear
And as the morning dragged on she got worse… today must just be a bad day
She is angry and distressed. After speaking to her children… Even they didn’t know how to deal with her.
First thing I learnt of the day:

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DONT TELL HER SHE HAS DEMENTIA
After about half an hour she forgave me. But I learnt then and there some things stick in her memory. I don’t want that to be one. I tried talking about old things, new things, nature, ballet, opera, classical music… And Piano… I got a bite of conversation out of her before she would start ranting that I was keeping her prisoner and that she was a human being and she couldn’t be treated like this.
Arghh I didn’t/ still don’t know how to deal with it. Best thing I have found so far Offer her tea and Sympathize with her accusations
But what do I do to keep her mind of things.?

It is so upsetting to see such an avid reader and a musician feel no love towards such things any longer.

Later On
Dealing with dementia I have found is Hard. Upsetting. Frustrating. Exhausting. Depressing.
I don’t know how families and caregivers manage. It faces an onslaught of emotions every day.
Stress is everywhere I look. Fretting about the lack of milk when there is five liters in the fridge or the lack of tea bags when there is 5 boxes waiting to be used.
To us it doesn’t make sense how their lack of logic isn’t realized by them. But I can see now how real the worry is.

I know that trying to shock them back to reality is too harsh and unkind to the person suffering. And that they will resent you for it. So going along with it works better. I’ve humored the lady I look after, taking about the same thing again and again. I’ve notice she only comes back to talk about things that make her nervous, anxious and stressed.
For this particular lady a cup of tea and a biscuit helps momentarily. But within minutes she begins to stress again, becoming frantic and scared. I didn’t want to leave her alone but the family said I should retreat to my room when she began to get very agitated, I reluctantly left her to her own devices, watching her potter around the home. Moving pillows off the couch then coming back to it and putting them back. After a while I decided she must be dehydrated and wanted to make sure she was ok. While I did keep an eye on her while out of sight I wanted to make sure she didn’t get lonely.
How to introduce myself again?
I was in her home already
Far out! How do I not startle her?
After much debating and watching her old up a paper she had nodded off to earlier I decided to settle for a simple “How are you Shora? I’ll make you a cup of tea
WOW IT ACTUALLY WORKED
She was ok with me being there, I know she was puzzled but after some talking ( perhaps the 24th time that day about who I was) she was relaxed and we sat talking a whole, circling around the four same topic, thankfully the whole “I’m angry with my son for not telling me you are here
As it got later on and an hour past, I could see she was starting to get agitate again, she seemed to loose her cool. It was 5:30.

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She had lasted through what I was told the worst part of the day (sundowners syndrome?) so what could I complain about. Again one of her children came and I escaped her concerned glance and she forgot about twenty minutes that I was even there.
thank god , not for my sake but for hers. It really broke my heart to see someone so distressed. I couldn’t imagine it. I know this is basically the same as my last post but, I don’t know how else to explain it.
Her son who is here now takes a different approach to her daughter who came earlier in the day. The daughter skirts around the dementia problem, never bringing it up. While her son, who is most involved in her well being (he visits everyday) tells her the answers to her questions, adding every time that it’s ok that she doesn’t remember. She gets nasty with her children, but she tells me once they have gone that she knows she does it and regrets it. Throughout the day she says she remembers me, not from the previous conversation but from an encounter we had a week ago.

I have been recommended to wear the same clothes as if it will job her memory. Well what I am wearing is very memorable.

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She keeps commenting on my necklace and my shirt. Perhaps this is the key to her feeling comfortable with me. Familiarity
The necklace as it happens is supposed to protect your aura. And it is well needed in this situation. All her negative and anxiety is radiating in every direction.
Keeping myself calm from her nasty comments is a bit up in the air. At first I took it to heart, being the sensitive wuss that I am I found myself hurt by her comments. But then it dawned on me. IT IS A DISEASE.
I know she would never say anything like this in her right mind. Every now an then she revels a sliver of herself which is quickly clouded by the dementia and frailty of her emotions. Her distress broadcasted outwardly, the only thing you can do it deal with it and remember it isn’t really her saying that.

The next morning
Perfect
It went better than anyone would ask for.
Getting her into bed was the problem. A stranger trying to get you into bed well technically trying to get her into her pjs was the wort part.
After in vein by 8th time of suggesting she got ready for bed her son stepped in and told her “mother it is time for bed!” but in a sweet comical way. So we bridged the whole pajama problem. Next step trying to get her to fall asleep in her bed.
She would creep out of her room and call over her son. Always worrying if there was someone else there. strangely enough she remembered I was there and seemed comfortable with it.
After a while when I had put on my pajamas and told her I was going to Ed she seemed much more obliging to get into bed herself. The first half of the night perfect. I lay in bed for a bit. Today’s events running through my brain. Realizing I would go through the same ordeal every week. But while it seemed terrifying, the thought of it. I think I can manage it. Each time will be different. The next Saturday it may be a good day or then again it might be a bad day. I’m sure that it will come easier as time goes by.
At around 3am I woke up to a slight scuffling of her feet as she found the bathroom. After she went back to bed I heard her close the door and put a wedge under.
For a while it puzzled me why she had done this. Security. She knew he couldn’t get out the front door. And since there was no other escape for her she did her best attempt to ‘lock’ her door and protect herself. In her situation I would have done the same thing. I know that when she wakes up it will be a fright. While she remembers my presence after an hour on a good day. I don’t know how she will go when she comes out of her room. It’s been 8 hours since we interacted. fingers crossed it runs smoothly

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5 thoughts on “Dealing with Dementia

  1. Dementia is a horror that I would wish on nobody. The huge Baby Boomer generation will bring with it an explosion in dementia which will collapse the medical system. From the age of 65 and every 5 years 5% of the Baby Boomers will suffer dementia in other words by age of 80 all 80+ about quarter will have some sort of dementia. People are scared about the zombie apocalypse, this is a close relation to it. There is no joy in watching a human being lose their dignity as their whole being is erased before your eyes.

    • Hi Alex, you are totally right.
      I had no idea how real it was until today. I can’t imagine how hard it is for the families or the person themselves. I can see the distress when the lady I look after doesn’t know what’s going on. Apparently it gets worse in the afternoon.

      • From what I know of people who have cared for family members with dementia it is distressing and hellish.

        For the individuals themselves: distress, confusion, frustration. They usually are diagnosed early on when they still have good self awareness, so they know there is something wrong and they begin fighting it.

        In harsh terms it is like your blog being erased a post at a time each day until nothing is left. The memories, personality and even their name is taken away from them. In the end all that is left is an empty skull, then the disease goes for the life support systems of the brain which leads to their death.

        In metaphorical terms it is like you are in a cluttered room with an electric light. Bit by bit the light dims, the shadows increase and your vision around the room becomes less focused and clear. Eventually there is only darkness which equates to non-awareness.

      • I can’t imagine how hard it is for her but she has settled down after being out with her daughter to the dentist, her mood has improved slightly but she mentioned she remembered me… So that’s a plus considering she hasn’t remembered me since I came this morning at 8am.

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