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Alzheimer's Disease

Living with A Person Suffering From Alzheimer's Disease

09/13/2007

Question:

Hello. I am finding it increasingly hard to deal with my mum constantly asking the same questions. This was never a part of her alzheimers dementia that has been a challenge for me, although, the same questions were never asked every 2 mins. How honest can one be with a a/d person? It seems to upset my mum if I tell her she has just eaten or just had a drink when she asks for it. She can`t believe herself that she can`t remember eating or having a cup of tea. The same goes for washing. She thinks she has, but when I tell her she hasn`t she gets upset. She takes aricept 5mg, the 10mg strength gave her unwanted side effects, her anti depressant works well with her mood. Hoping you can guide me round this upsetting situation, and, thank you. P.S. mum is 90

Answer:

Thanks for the good question. Unfortunately, as Alzheimer's disease progresses the person's short-term memory gets even shorter and shorter over time and they often forget very quickly what questions they have asked or what activity they were just doing. It does take an additional measure of patience on behalf of the caregiver to cope with these repetitive actions.

I would tend to not point out to your mum the fact that she has just eaten or asked the same question. If she says that she has not eaten and you know she has, offer her a light snack (piece of fruit or crackers and cheese or a cookie, etc.) and reassure her that she'll have her bigger meal later. If she wants another cup of tea, either go ahead and giver her another small cup of tea or tell her that you'll get it for her in a few minutes and walk away, in hopes that she will have forgotten by the time you return.

I would not spend time arguing with her or trying to convince her that she just had a cup of tea, but instead look at other ways to change the subject or get her distracted or redirected to another thought or activity (give her a magazine to look at, or some towels to fold, or some task that might occupy her attention, or turn on music or the television, or reminisce about things from the past, etc.).

Even with bathing, I would not remind her that she hasn't bathed, but just get things set up and tell her it's time for her bath, and if she says she's already washed, tell her that you understand this, but that she is going somewhere special that day and needs to be extra clean or spruced up. I also encourage families to pick their battles and if the person does not get bathed every day this may be okay, depending on if the person is getting dirty or incontinent. Sometimes using the flushable wipes to clean the private areas or a quick sponge bath is all that is needed some days.

The Aricept medication is a good choice, but the disease will continue to progress, even with the medication. The use of an anti-depressant is also a good choice, as this can help improve the mood and may lessen the person's resistiveness to care. Depending on what medication is being used you may want to consult with her doctor and see if the anti-depressant medication dose could be increased. Taking care of a loved one with Alzheimer's is a daily challenge. Make sure you take time out for yourself, so you can continue to have the patience to deal with caring for your mum. Good Luck

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Response by:

Rebecca A Davis, RN, LISW Rebecca A Davis, RN, LISW
Clinical Research Nurse of Neurology
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University