The main time my husband and I argue is when he goes in his depends and refuses to let me change him. It is a horrible nightmare. Wish I knew what to do. Joan
Sadly, your concern is far from unusual, Joan. It used to be that you could reason with your husband, changing his belief and changing his behavior. Reasoning is now useless. It requires thinking skills a Person living with dementia no longer has. Think of the process this way now:
- The surrounding environmental triggers an emotion. These can also be residual, that is, something perfectly benign may trigger an old fear.
- This emotion drives your husband's beliefs. Most driving emotions are negative. Designed to motivate, they are strong, pushy and long lasting.
- Your husband's beliefs drive his behaviors. Once he has made up his mind, he CAN'T change it. Can't, not won't. But he can change his focus--with your help!
- Learn why your husband's dementia-damaged brain won't allow him to change his mind.
- Learn why he can change his focus and what the difference is between changing his mind and changing his focus.
- Learn why you are the one who must change your expectations, your attitude and your actions.
- Learn why negative emotions motivate and drive behavior while positive emotions encourage calmness and relaxation.
- Learn why negative behavior is often triggered by the fear of something to be avoided.
- Learn why it is so important that you start positive and stay positive, no matter what.
Next you must prepare. "Set the stage" so that there are fewer triggers--fewer things to avoid.
- A common trigger when skin is about to be exposed is the fear of feeling cold. Make sure the bathroom is cozy warm before you even start and have all the supplies handy so the job won't take any longer than necessary.
- If mirrors trigger the fear that a stranger is watching, remove or cover them.
- If you can think of other ideas to help your husband feel more comfortable, implement them. It is worth the effort!
- Being positive does two things. It prevents you from escalating your husband's behavior the way being frustrated would and gives him something to mirror. He can't change his emotions himself, but he can mirror yours.
- Make the practice of being positive a part of your preparation, and think about how you can stay positive even in the face of his resistance. You want to be believed and so you must smile from your heart. It won't work otherwise!
- Take some time just before you start to make a conscious choice to be positive no matter what. Think of the love you feel for him and be determined let it show, even in the face of his resistance.
- Bribes are always a good bet and ice cream is a favorite. Make sure you are prepared and able to provide whatever you use as a bribe quickly.
- Music and rhythm can help you focus on working together. Unless you plan to do the singing yourself, set up your music delivery system ahead of time so that all you have to do is push a button.
For more information about Lewy body disorders, read our books:
A Caregivers’ Guide to Lewy Body Dementia
Managing Cognitive Issues in Parkinson's and Lewy Body Disordes
Helen and James Whitworth are not doctors, lawyers or social workers. As informed caregivers, they share the information here for educational purposes only. It should never be used instead of a professional's advice.