As seniors go through the stages of Dementia, the emotions change. Based on my experiences with my mom and discussions with other caregivers, this is heavily influenced by their personality, values and principles. The disease tends to exaggerate some of the personality traits. This can be good and bad.
In the case of my mom, she and my dad worked hard to not be a burden and to not interfere with the lives of my me and my brother. They also were very private people; especially my dad. While they were pleasant to be around and had many friends, they would not share personal information. Up to the day my dad died, we couldn’t get him to talk about his wishes for health care or burial. My dad bought stocks as a sideline income but would never share his methods. I’m not sure if it was distrust or not wanting to share a method that ended up not working for me.
Who Are They Today?
Through the course of my mom’s Dementia, I found there were good days and bad days. The bad days were very tough for me and it is not easy to dismiss the anger without somehow blaming yourself. The trait my mom was displaying on bad days was distrust. There was a dark period in the early stages when she blamed everyone else for the loss of items she displaced or couldn’t remember where she put them. I struggled for a while until I found a method that worked for me. When I would visit my mom, I could tell instantly if it was going to be a good day or a bad day. So as soon as she would go into her angry mood, I would give her a hug, a kiss and say “Mom, I’ll come back when you are feeling better”. That worked the best for me. She would call a little later and apologize and ask that I come see her again soon. These anger episodes were not frequent and most of my visits were pleasant.
After dealing with the emotional shifts, I started thinking if there was a pattern or a root cause for the anger episodes. I started noting how the conversations went leading up the the episodes and the subject matter often mentioned isolation. Even though she was receiving periodic visits from me, her brother and sister, she didn’t remember from day to day. So I worked to have more frequent visits. This helped but didn’t completely solve the problem. The next experiment was short visits at regular times. For example, her brother lives close-by and began stopping in every morning to make sure she took her morning medication and ate breakfast. This all but eliminated the episodes.
We have since supplemented our visits with a senior care visit for 2 hours every day. While expensive, it is considerably less expensive than moving her to a memory care facility. Our ultimate goal is to delay that move as long as possible.