Honestly, Mom was not a complainer. She always saw the bright side of things and she loved a good laugh. That’s why I was not understanding her personality changes. Her symptoms of Alzheimer’s included a lot more than memory loss.
For obvious reasons, most people don’t want to leave their homes to live in an assisted living facility. Some people with Alzheimer’s can remain at home for a long time if someone is living there with them, but it’s not an option if they are living alone. We were happy to have found a beautiful place for Mom to live and we wanted to do everything we could to make it feel like home.
We made sure she had her pictures on the walls and her knick-knacks on the tables. We started having the newspaper delivered to her door and had the local cable company hook up her TV and phone. Mom kept her sense of humor and one day she picked up the remote control to answer it when her phone rang. We had a good laugh.
What I did not find at all funny was when she would call me several times a day to protest. She wanted me to get her out of there. She would say, “This place is a DUMP!” Dump? She had the nicest unit in the entire building, which by some standards might have been considered over the top. It wasn’t a dump by any stretch of the imagination.
My reaction was to disagree, then tell her what a nice place she lived in. I told her she had two large rooms even though most people only had one. She had a lovely view and lots of morning sun. Her kitchenette had a refrigerator for snacks and a microwave for making tea. Her meals were cooked for her three times a day and they were delicious.
Nothing worked. Day after day, week after week, I got those calls.
The problem was, I hadn’t yet learned to agree with everything she said. That was the rule that took me forever to learn. My reaction should have been, “You are RIGHT. This place is a DUMP!! Let’s fix it up!”
Mom was probably trying to tell me that she wanted to go home but she just didn’t know how to express it. Over time I got better at agreeing with her, but it felt like lying. There was one time I remember thinking that I couldn’t agree with her. We were taking a walk and she started talking about her second husband. Nope. I couldn’t do it. She had over 50 years of a nearly perfect marriage to Dad and I just couldn’t chitchat about a second husband she never had. I just quickly changed the subject.
People with Alzheimer’s repeat questions, statements and stories over and over. You will hear that you are supposed to keep listening and answering and agreeing for as many times as necessary. That is not always easy.
Just remember that someday, any verbal expression at all from your loved one will be welcomed.
Suggestion: Just agree. Don’t agree to disagree, just agree. There are some basic rules for dementia caregiving and here are some good articles:
Family Caregiver Alliance: https://www.caregiver.org/ten-real-life-strategies-dementia-caregiving