The Whitworths of Arizona, bringing science to you in everyday language.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Dealing with Resistance, Part 2

Notice: We are well into our summer season of traveling and from this day until the middle of October, when we return home, I will be posting blogs every two weeks.

This week's blog is the second in a two-week series of blogs in answer to Joan's post:

The main time my husband 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

Last week's blog was about Joan doing her homework, setting the scene and practicing being positive. Now, she needs to take a deep breath, put on her smile and go to work. If you haven't read last week's blog go do it now before you read more.

Joan, if your husband is resisting, he likely sees you as his tormentor. As long as this is so, just being positive isn't enough. Instead of trying to reason with him (hopeless!) or ordering him to be compliant (anger-making!), agree with him and become his ally.
  • Help him to feel heard: Listen. Nod your head. Agree with his complaints.
  • Help him to feel understood. Coo soothing words of sympathy. 
  • Change the focus of his anger from you to what you want to change, in this case, his soiled pants. "Those awful pants are making you uncomfortable, aren't they? Let's get rid of them."
(Warning: Gentle touch is a great help, but not until the anger is defused. Otherwise, you are in danger of being hit as your husband strikes out in defense.)

Now that you are both on the same side, you can address any remaining fears. Work to figure out what the triggers are.
  • One of them may be you! He may be reacting to his fear of giving up control--of being treated like a child instead of an adult. Work to treat this like a cooperative event as much as possible. Let him do what he can himself and include him in the task every way you can, even if it is simply to tell him what "we" are doing.
  • Use your knowledge of your husband to think of any other fears that might be driving his resistance and think of ways to neutralize them.
With his fears decreased, his anger will dissipate and he will be able to start mirroring your positive attitude. With more positive emotions in control, he will be more agreeable and less resistant. Make sure you stay positive and give him lots of kudos. You can't overdo the compliments! Gentle, un-custodial touching (that given voluntarily and not needed for the job at hand) works wonders here. If you've planned for music, use it now. Music and its rhythm can help you promote togetherness, and the idea of working together. You can sing, but if you need your husband to help you, don't expect him sing too. He can do only one thing at a time.

If he starts getting resistive again, it means the fears are returning. This is especially likely to happen if you are too task oriented. Now is the time to take advantage of his short attention span and use distraction to change his focus from what he's beginning to worry about again to something pleasant. If you wait too long, the negative emotions will take over and you'll be back to square one. A bribe often works well--"Let's get this done so we can go have some ice cream."

Once the job is done, pile on the compliments, hugs and lots of gentle touching. And go get that promised ice cream. You need it too!

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 Dementia

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.

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