Living with a family member who suffers from dementia can test the patience of even the most patient. I’m sure that many caregivers can relate to this feeling; the pent-up frustration of having the same conversation over and over again. Or, your loved one forgetting something a minute after you have just discussed it.
Often one of the things that family members notice first about someone with dementia is the repetition of conversation. I’m not talking about somebody who repeats the same story every time you see them; I’m referring to the person that tells you something only minutes after having just told you. This can leave you feeling like you’re having a ‘Groundhog Day’ conversation. If you have not ever seen movie “Groundhog Day”, the plot involves a weather man, played by Bill Murray, who finds himself waking up to the same day (Groundhog Day) again and again and again. He becomes trapped in the repetition of this day; a time loop.
Living with somebody who has dementia can feel very much like this. Family members find themselves having the same conversations, giving the same instructions, asking the same questions, and experiencing the same frustrations, not once a day, but multiple times daily.
Maintaining the ability to have a sense of humor about these moments can really save you. While you might not always be able to laugh in the moment, sometimes you’re just too dang tired, often a little distance from the episode makes it possible.
My father, who has dementia and is also declining physically a great deal, was told by his doctor to give up driving a couple of years ago (after I wrote to the doctor suggesting that he needed to help us with this task). Even at that time my father was having some – weakness which was impairing his ability to, well, drive; lifting your right foot from the gas to the brake is somewhat imperative! Dad had to be placed in a nursing home last December and in this past year has continued to decline both mentally and physically. But he holds on to the notion that he is going to get all better one day and doesn’t understand why that isn’t happening. He blames it on the therapists in many ways thinking that they are not giving him the attention that he needs.
Recently, when it was mentioned that Mom would someday also have to give up driving, Dad offered that he thought he would be able to take it over again by the time Mom could not do it any longer.
At least this gave us something to chuckle over…….
A dear friend of mine, who’s father also has dementia but is physically very good, was leaving the hospital one day with her father after being there to have her mother admitted. As they were walking to the car and discussing going to dinner, her father asked if her mother would be joining them. My friend reminded her father that she had just been admitted to the hospital to which her father replied, ‘Well when was somebody going to tell me about that!?’
Now, my friend may have needed a glass of wine after her whole ordeal that day, but in looking back, she can see the humor…….and have a chuckle.
So, scream, take a walk, go for a run, have a glass of wine, eat a dish of ice cream or if you are able, have a good laugh.
As caregivers for loved ones with dementia, you have to find a way to get through. We all deal with things in different ways, so I can’t tell you what will work best for you. You know yourself better than anybody else and probably know what relieves your stress, but it is up to you to do it.
I can assure you that you need to find whatever ‘it’ is. You need to have a time, place and way to burn off the frustration, weariness and anxiety of living in a ‘Groundhog Day’ world.
As for me, I will continue to try to find humor in my father’s comments. That may come easier some days after a glass of wine, but so be it. That is I how I will get through…..
How about you?
On the journey with you…….Kathy