Q: Dear Regina, My mom was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and it took a lot of work to get this. However, she has lost her motivation for life. I know this is not a disease anyone wants. My mom is still alive and we all have to move forward. What can we do to get her motivated? We did hire someone to come and help her, but she really doesn’t take advantage of the help. She is very ungrateful.
A: Apathy can be caused by many things, so let’s take a look at it from a holistic view that may help you try to help your mom.
• Encourage short naps or rest time.
• Check for pain and mange her pain with a schedule – this area is often missed as she may not be able to communicate that she is in pain or discomfort.
• You might need to help her follow her treatment plan — for example, if she needs help remembering her pain medication ask the doctor how often she needs to take it and get a medi-set that is easy for her to follow.
• Report to a health provider any changes that you notice with her.
• Fear – always acknowledge how she feels and listen to what she says.
• Talk about stuff she likes even if you have heard it many times.
• Use some memory aids, such as pictures and music.
• Find out if she likes groups or one-to-one for an activity that she likes.
• Watch your body language and use eye contact when talking to her.
• Respect her privacy – her help may be making her feel her space is invaded. Assess that situation so that her help is more of a friend and gives her space. Be careful of her intimate space – her feelings of privacy are still intact.
• Continue with friend dates. Help her contact them.
• Possible lack of stimulation – provide something that is meaningful to her that she would engage in — for example, pet therapy, art, volunteering somewhere, music therapy or aromatherapy.
• Lack of sleep could be a problem, and exposure to sunlight in the morning could help.
I don’t think she is ungrateful; her brain is not functioning like yours, therefore, she is not able to live an everyday life as you and I would. The other thing you may want to consider is if she has had any losses in the past six months to a year. For example, did she lose a spouse, someone close to her, pet, job, recently moved, loss of driving privileges or anything that decreases her independence? These things can be triggered as clinical depression. In many cases, fixing the depression will reverse some of her symptoms.
Please understand that her brain is dying and she does not have control over it and with time it gets worse. She cannot help it.
Q: Dear Regina, My mom has pushed me over the edge. I came to give her medication as our routine because she forgets. I find her with a neighbor, who my mom has told I was her caregiver but that I never come to care for her and I steal all her money. The neighbour asked her if I harm her and she told the neighbour she didn’t know, but if she could kill me, she would! I was just beside myself. I am exhausted from this behaviour. I want to place her in a home but promised I would not. She is going through a spell now and she does not trust me at all. I feel trapped. Will this come to an end?
A: Your mom is very confused, of course, and this is part of her disease. I am more worried about you than her at this point. Do you have a friend that can help you? You need a break. Contact the local Alzheimer’s Association. They may be able to give you some advice or support to calm the situation down with your mom.
Will it end? Yes. Her disease will change as you and she travel through the journey. It is hard not to take the insults personally as there is family history and old rooted memories you have and that she still has intact that she will twist for her advantage. This is the disease acting in defense to a situation that has triggered information that has only fragments of part of an event here and part of something she may have read, seen or heard somewhere else. Her brain is trying to connect the dots and is not able to accurately.
It is painful for the caregiver to experience the event. However, if you are able to, keep in mind it is not her fault and, therefore, do not take it personally. If you are able to, get in her reality at that moment and just believe she is seeing it her way (not that it is true) but that it is her truth at that moment. Empathize with her. You are able to do this. She is not.
Your health and emotional health is important. Take care of it and seek support.
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