Most caregivers will tell you that some times of day and certain activities are consistently more challenging than others. Maybe your loved one experiences “sundowning,” the name given to the noticeable increase in behavioral problems beginning in the evening and sometimes continuing into the night. Maybe your loved one balks at taking medication or getting ready for an appointment. The most difficult times for my mom were right after she awakened in the morning and bedtime at the end of the day. Bath time was also a struggle.
Over the next few weeks, you’ll find here detailed descriptions of strategies that worked for me and other caregivers in those consistently challenging areas.
For now, here are two general tips that helped me in almost any difficult situation.
- Don’t make it a big deal.
I found that the less importance I attached to an activity, the more likely it was Mom would cooperate. So I worked hard to be calm and cool. In order to avoid passing my own tension on to her, I practiced telling myself “This will go well. Either it will go well or it really doesn’t need to be done right now.” A doctor’s appointment could be rescheduled. Medication could be a little late and if Mom missed a dose entirely, I could call the doctor for advice. The main thing I had to understand is that I couldn’t make Mom do anything, so if she flatly refused, it had to be okay, at least for the time being.
- Give it time; try again later.
Give yourself permission to figure out how to handle the situation…later. Trust yourself to know when something can be postponed and when it can’t. If the activity can wait or the problem behavior isn’t dangerous, simply waiting and trying again after a few minutes often leads to success. Sometimes it takes trying again, and again, and again. But I can tell you that, in almost every instance, Mom eventually cooperated with what we had to do.
The exception, of course, is when the activity affects someone’s physical safety. If your loved one won’t come inside in bad weather, for example, or threatens any kind of physical harm to her/himself or to you, you must be prepared to get immediate help, by calling on friends or family or by calling 911.
If you want more tips right away, here are three sources:
- The 24/7 helpline for the Alzheimer’s Association is 1.800.272.3900.
- Their website (www.alz.org) offers advice on how to handle daily activities and certain difficult behaviors.
- And for more strategies that worked for me, click on “Tips and Strategies for Caregivers” above.
Father, please remind me that sometimes the best means of persuasion is quiet waiting. May I be aware of Your presence, Your calm, and Your power working in me and through me at all times. Thank You for Your faithful guidance and help.
This is what the Sovereign Lord…says: “…In quietness and trust is your strength….” (Isaiah 30:15 NIV)