The facilitator said, “All of you as caregivers have to remember that your loved one’s brains aren’t functioning the way they used to so they’re scared and confused half the time by the world around them, sometimes they don’t even know why they’re scared-they just are.”
“So, it might not seem like there’s a reason to you”, she said to *Jane, ”but your husband is fighting against something that is very real to him. He just might not be able to articulate it.”
“That could be part of the reason your husband is lashing out.”
Like Jane, I sat back and let the words wash over me, drinking in the notion that Miss Cathy, like Jane’s husband, isn’t ornery just for the sake of being a bitch, she’s probably afraid and anger is the only emotion she can access.
There aren’t any little children running around our place like there is at Jane’s but I could relate to her dilemma when confronted with giving her husband choices.
Like Jane’s husband, my mom becomes overwhelmed in the face of what seems to me to be simple, ordinary choices but it’s gotten harder and harder (and more and more volatile) when it comes time for Miss Cathy to make decisions, so I made a mental note to whittle her options from “alot” down to two or none whenever possible.
The facilitator suggested that we always ‘check’ ourselves before we engage with our loved one (especially if they are having a bad day) and to never argue with them.
“You will never ‘win’ a battle with someone with dementia so why try, “ she said, “and do not try to engage them if you are angry yourself.”
I was reminded of a concept I learned in a 12-step program years ago when dealing with my own struggles.
It’s called “HALT” and it’s an acronym to remind oneself to stop and ask ourselves if we are “Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired” before we put ourselves in the path of conflict.
And if in going down that mental check list we were to discover that we were one (or more) of those things then we should take care of ourselves first and then engage with the situation or another person.
Remember, even flight attendants advise that you “put the oxygen mask on yourself first and then on a (small) loved one in your care.”
* Names, characteristics and descriptions of people that I’ve met along my journey have been altered or changed to protect their privacy.