The Ten Absolutes

Absolute Six: Never Say, “I told you…” – Instead Repeat and Regroup!

Some years ago, there was a lady named Betty living in the Alzheimer's home I ran who was unusually difficult. Her family reported that she had always had a very volatile personality, and it certainly appeared that the disease process had made it much worse. Her daughter Julie was particularly devoted to her, and often took her on little excursions from the home. Her daughter told me on one occasion of a certain situation they had had.

She and her mom had been sitting in their favorite restaurant, and were almost finished eating their lunch. Julie noticed that her mom had begun looking around for her purse. She started to panic, because there were a lot of people in the restaurant and she knew from past experiences that her mother might start accusing her, or even one of the other patrons, of stealing her purse! Her worry grew, but suddenly she remembered what we had discussed just a few days before about regrouping her own thoughts, not trying to change her mother's actions.

Julie got up, walked just to the end of the aisle, and with a deep breath, turned and walked back towards the booth. She had not let her mom out of her sight, but she had regrouped and changed her frame of mind. When she got to the booth, she exclaimed, “Hi, Mom! Oh, I see you've already eaten lunch. Well, why don't you let me buy your lunch, then we can go get some ice cream!” Her mom looked up and said, “Hi, Honey! Where have you been? Ice cream sounds good. Let's go!” Julie was incredibly relieved. And when she looked back, she saw the entire room looking at her like she was crazy! Instead of worrying about it, she just chuckled and thought to herself, You all have no idea how crazy you would have thought we both were if Mom had decided to go after you for stealing her purse!

This Absolute is really more for the caregiver than the patient. Julie's lunch with her mom was an eloquent example of the 6th Absolute: Never Say “I Told You…” - Instead Repeat/Regroup. Because of the repetitive actions so often exhibited with this disease process, it's easy for any caregiver to get to their wits' end. Our normal response is to grit our teeth, clench our fists and exclaim, “I just told you this! How many times do I have to tell you not to…(fill in the blank)”.   It is a clear indicator that when you can no longer remain calm and repeat the answer to their questions again, or when your calm explanations are not going to be believed (i.e. “you didn't have a purse”), then the best thing to do is regroup - and the person you need to regroup with is You! I have often suggested that actually walking out of the room and just coming back in again will help you regroup, and maybe even laugh at yourself for having lost control. A bigger lesson here is that if your caregiving responsibilities are getting to you and you are losing control more than you like, then it is a clear indicator that you are doing too much. Everyone needs to take a break and rest, and you need to find a way to make a change in your life soon - or you may become ill or do something you will regret.