I’ve gotten into some arguments with my mom over the past couple of weeks and I feel like this didn’t used to happen. I feel short with her when I go over to her house to check in with her and it makes me concerned for our relationship. Any advice?
You’re saying this is something new - this didn’t used to happen often – because of this, I think the most important thing to focus in on is figuring out if any life factors shifted recently (outside of any progression of dementia). What might have changed? Right now, we are all adjusting to abnormal changes in our daily and weekly routines! That adjustment is amplified for someone living with dementia. None of us are used to all the abrupt change the pandemic has brought to our lives, so please show yourself a little compassion. After all, the changes are affecting you too!
Your relationship may be feeling a little deteriorated because of these changes, but what may help is focusing on the smaller things. Reflect on the last couple days, and reflect on your interactions with your mom. What were the things that bothered you? What were the things that bothered your mom? Can you think of instances where you wished you had said or did something differently? You may be able to prevent an argument by planning your responses. If you find yourself having reoccurring discussions, reassess how you might respond next time. Alternately, you may be able to avoid the argument by diverting the subject. Suggest going for a walk or doing something else completely. It’s never worth trying to win an argument with someone living with dementia. Their perspective on an issue might be completely different than yours, and it might be a perspective that is difficult to relate to and understand. Diverting the subject can sometimes avoid an argument all together.
At Insight, if you’ve met one person with dementia, you’ve met one person with dementia. It’s a reminder that dementia manifests itself differently in everyone, and that we are all individuals with dynamic preferences and tolerances. Everyone living with dementia has their own unique course of the disease process – and their own personality! Because of this, communicating and caring for someone with dementia will involve a bit of trial and error. Your loved one asks a question, and how you respond may go well, or it may not. You can file those responses away and remember for next time to try a similar or completely different approach, depending on the outcome. Additionally, allow yourself a few seconds before you respond in a conversation. Take those seconds to relax with a breath and generate a well-planned response. This may help you achieve the ultimate goal: a positive outcome that avoids argument!
We're answering your questions in our "Ask Insight" series this month. If you have a question you'd like answered, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at 703-204-4664!
Kennedy O'Donnell is the Early Stage Coordinator at Insight Memory Care Center.