When my mother would say something mean, nonsensical or just downright crazy it would bring up emotions like anger in me immediately. Imagine a person being very mean to you and how you might feel. Since I was raised in a feisty Italian-American family it was not unusual for my “temper” to flair.
Alzheimer' and Communication, Take a Few Deep Breaths
When I moved to Delray Beach, Florida to take care of my mother one of my most difficult problems was learning how to communicate with her. If you have cared for a person suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia you know how difficult this can be.
When my mother would say something mean, nonsensical or just downright crazy it would bring up emotions like anger in me immediately. Imagine a person being very mean to you and how you might feel. Since I was raised in a feisty Italian-American family it was not unusual for my “temper” to flair. If I reacted the way I had in the past my mother would either get “meaner”, or she would go into her room and stay there for hours on end often refusing to speak. I would end up with a pain in my stomach and a range of feelings that included a sense of hopelessness. I realized during those first days that I needed learn how to deal effectively with this new, unfamiliar, communication with my mother.
The first thing I decided to do was work very hard to learn a new set of skills when these situations occurred. I learned to label (identify) and accept my initial reaction. What was I feeling: anger, frustration, confusion, sadness or a combination of all of these feelings? I found that by identifying my feelings I could corral and contain them so I could deal effectively with my mother and the situation at hand. Once I had my mother settled I would go into a separate room and let my feeling come to the surface. First identify, second feel and third dismiss these feeling as part of the sometimes craziness called Alzheimer’s disease. I know my mother didn’t mean what she was saying and I knew from my previous 50 years with her that she would never say or do the things she was doing if she could help it.
As I was learning, I read an article about taking a “few deep breaths”. I tried it. Before I knew it, I was able to use this technique to blow away all the bad feelings and find myself relieved. I also learned to take a few deep breaths once the communication episode with my mother was starting. This really helped put me in focus and remind myself about what needed to be accomplished.
So my advice to you is to learn how to take a few deep breaths. Nice and slow deeper and deeper breaths. It works.
I learned to accept my initial reaction to these situations as part of being human. In other words, I came to understand that it was OK to have my feelings, my emotions. I also learned that I needed to keep these feelings in check and find a way to diffuse the anger within me. I came to understand that my mother was now evidencing behavior that was a result of her own confusion and the deterioration taking place in her brain. I came to accept the Alzheimer’s disease for what it is—something mean and sinister that was not going to go away. I learned to take control of the situation at hand.
You can do it too, I know you can.