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How do I deal with Mom's angry outbursts?

17 answers | Last updated: Jul 26, 2014
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Caring.com User - Joanne Koenig Coste
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Joanne Koenig Coste is a nationally recognized expert on Alzheimer's care and an outspoken advocate for patient and family care. She is the author...
56% helpful
answered...

Handling angry outbursts in the elderly is a complex situation. The fact that the angry person is your parent certainly complicates the caregiving scenario. I'm sure many suggestions have already See also:
My mother is refusing to go into assisted living. How do we get her involved?
seemed counter-intuitive simply because you are the child of the affected person. Most likely, you feel the need to continue recognizing this role while the viable treatment may involve times when role-reversal is necessary. My husband, who had an early onset mixed dementia also showed signs of different disease entities. Angry outbursts that seemed related to a frontal-lobe dementia, great mood & functional changes that sometimes only lasted a few short minutes and were related to vascular disease, and cognitive decline in concert with Alzheimer's. I needed to try many various reactions to the anger and different treatments for the other symptoms. Reasoning never worked -he had lost the ability to respond to it and trying to offer logical explanations complicated his behavior. In the decades since, as a professional working exclusively with this population, I have seen hundreds of people with progressive organic brain disease such as your mom appears to have. I would revisit the medication regime. Perhaps try entering into a dialog with your pharmacist who may be the best professional to know which medications may work best for each of the symptoms. This may take time and is generally a trial and error program. What works for one patient may not work for another, but when you find the right one it will be well worth the wait! My husband, who had an early onset mixed dementia also showed signs of different disease entities. Angry outbursts that seemed related to a frontal-lobe dementia, great mood & functional changes that sometimes only lasted a few short minutes and were related to vascular disease, and cognitive decline in concert with Alzheimer's. I needed to try many various reactions to the anger and different treatments for the other symptoms. Reasoning never worked -he had lost the ability to respond to it and trying to offer logical explanations complicated his behavior. In the decades since, as a professional working exclusively with this population, I have seen hundreds of people with progressive organic brain disease such as your mom appears to have. I would revisit the medication regime. Perhaps try entering into a dialog with your pharmacist who may be the best professional to know which medications may work best for each of the symptoms. This may take time and is generally a trial and error program. What works for one patient may not work for another, but when you find the right one it will be well worth the wait!
Meanwhile, you may want to address the 'hallucinations' by examining the environment. Check to be sure she isn't interpreting something (shadows, noises, TV etc) as a perceived threat. If she is on any medications ask your pharmacist if one of these may be contributing to her various behaviors - particularly the hallucinations. Again reasoning usually does not work since these things she is reacting to are very real to her. Trying to explain the reality of the situation will most likely exacerbate her distress and escalate the resulting anger. If you do not already belong to a support group, I encourage you to find meetings that will help you adjust to this very difficult and demanding situation. Not only will this be emotional assistance but you may also learn helpful techniques for dealing with each of her behavior issues. Remember that to be the best caregiver possible, you MUST take care of yourself.

 

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Lady2Bug3 answered...

In reading your letter I find my situation described. My mother is almost 95 years old and has not been diagnosed with either Alzheimer or dementia but is being treated with namenda and aricept. She has been having her switch flipped and being hard to handle. No help from the doctor. You just have to deal with it. This is very frustrating. My Mother doesn't know the names of anyone all the time. She has been living with me for 3 years now and is getting harder to handle. I fell in January and fractured my hip and had to have surgery. This caused me to have to get people in place to care for her 24 hours a day. I believe the suggestions in the first response are very good and plan to check with my pharmist for some answers. It helps to know that this is not just my mother but a condition that everyone has to deal with.
She has moments of clarity during which she tells me she is sorry for her outbursts and really seems to understand. She told me yesterday that if she every got back home she would never visit me again. And that she was going to tell her children that if anything happened to her I would be the one who did it. I have found that I can tell her to treat me with respect and she will be a little nicer. We have always been close but she doesn't remember me much of the time. it helps to vent even if I don't get any answers.

 

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ellen ruddy answered...

hi ya.. My mother has had dementia for several years now.. Yes at first she remember her anger outbursts but not the reason for it she would say she was so sorry and she didn't know why she did it...Then later she knew she had done something wrong and i would talk to her and try to reassure her.. That was then, now about a year later she has unbelievable rages. During these episodes she believes everyone is against her and scheming behind her back.. She is now in a nursing home, I had to take care of her for two years and it just got worse and worse, she followed me about everywhere, even the bathroom, she called me at least four times a night, I just couldn't do it any more. Now even in the nursing home they have to send for me when she flips, I still have to put her to bed because she won't let them do it and will become violent. Through the years of caring for her I know what to do and what not to do. 1. Never tell her she is wrong 2. Agree with everything She has come up with some unbelievable ideas, she has told me that the nursing staff had beaten a baby and hid it behind the nurses station....that they have locked her in a room all day and not given her anything to eat, people have come into her room and stolen all her money and stuff..

OK what do i do to calm her??? When she first started this i would try to talk her through it ,make her see how silly the things was she was saying.. she would, after a long time realise how wrong she was and would be so sorry, she even would cry. Now i find that as her condition worsens this does not work, she now cannot see how ridiculous the things she is saying are...I have found, though time, that if i agree with her and fix whatever she thinks is wrong she calms down and after and hour or even two she has forgotton all about it For instance...when she thought the nursing staff were hurting a baby and hid it behind their station, i told her i took the baby away to a safe place and she was content, i just had to keep reassuring her that i had saved the baby. Last night she had her usual one..someone had stolen all her things, ..what i did was go and get them back ...show her items she thought were missing and told her i got them back and everything was now ok When she is beyond all that i try to talk about something else, this is very difficult when she is in full rant...had to laugh one night when i tried to talk about my kids, she loves children, and in full rage she said '**** the children do i look as if i have time for them i have find my stuff'. Its can very hurtful sometimes but i find if i keep cool, laugh a lot and try to make her see the funny side of things i can take her around. my favourite thing to say is 'you either laugh or you cry'. Its a soul destroying disease, the person you love is changed beyond anything you could ever imagine but remember somewhere in there is the person you remember and love

 

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NoHelpHere answered...

I just now had this occurrence with my 63 yr old husband who has vascular dementia (severe stroke) and probably Alz.(drs. suspect). His 6 yr deterioration has led to "constant" pain and irrational outbursts, esp. when anxious about falling. His memory is pretty good but his emotional statbility is gone. So many issues to address but drs. tried Trileptal for pain since Lortab is not working and this has made his outbursts much worse. He seemed to do better on Seroquel (he also has Parkinson's) but can not take it when they are experimenting with other drugs. Drs. don't realize how difficult it is on caregivers when they begin messing with meds for patients with brain changes.Pharmacist told me they are trying everything else to prevent putting him on the stronger pain meds. Frustration and anxiety is #1 so I think this is the major issued to be addressed because he won't leave the house (not depressed).

 

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Sand55 answered...

I have a mother in law w/ vascular dementia and my husband is taking care of her. I started over a year ago, and she and I didn't work out. She became so violent towards me, it was breaking me down, I run a daycare for small children and between that and her, I couldn't cope. She is in my home still, but husband deals with her majority of time. He has learned to control her environment as much as possible, except for the days when I am in a room and she hears just my voice and swears I am talking about her in a vile way or anything that seems wrong with her, I am the reason behind it. It's unbearable. I have cried myself to sleep many nights as she sits in her room violently cursing me and saying how she would like to kill me and talking out loud of how she would carry it through. I have endurred many a sleepless nights wondering when she would walk thru my door and hit me with her cane, (luckily) for me she had a stroke and she is mobile but I can hear her most times with the cane...now she is starting to creep around very silently and at this time I told my husband she needs to leave. It's very hurtful the things she says....I know everyone says "think of the source" it doesn't make it hurt any less. I take things to heart very easily (this is not good) My husband is now building a new place behind our house which he will put her in and our nephew is helping to stay with her on and off to give husband a break. I wish I knew what to tell you. Hers is vascular and soft touch, noise reduction...treat them like you would an infant...is what I'm seeing...routine. and keep them busy when they are awake. Don't let them sleep during the day. I don't know if this helps. Good luck to you!

 

Caregivecompassion answered...

I work for the elderly and work with one particular woman who is extremely verbally aggressive toward all staff. I usually get hit at least two times on my shift. I always try to revert back to validation, to try to let her know i understand even if i dont. This sometimes works and sometimes it doesnt. I agree what someone else said to agree and state she is right no matter what. It NEVER helps to argue with a senior, especially if they are confused ( diagnosed dementia or not). Takeing appropriate space is much needed too, but remeber they need you and if space is taken ( for both parties sake) be sure not go too far. Keep in mind it is not a power struggle, and to know your own emotional limits. Remember to let them know what your doing before your doing it to ensure their feeling of safety. Be aware of their triggers and what might upset them, anticipate it like are lights on or doors shut or open, even if it seems silly to you it can set them off, causing you to have to deal with some not so nice behaviors. Do not rely on medication to solve grandmas woes, only your care and compassion will make these years bearable.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

My mother also has some angry dementia. I try to talk with her about it and she denies EVERYTHING. She is soon to be 84 and I am 62. Her doc is convinced that she does not have alz. I just don't know. She is argumentive as hell and I'm fed up with it. She even tells me she purposely tunes me out when I try to talk with her and admits to saying and doing things that she knows will upset me....can anyone believe this??-I'm telling the truth here! We live together and I have become sooo unhappy in my life. She generally sits on her butt all day and watches Fox News. She hardly wants to do anything else. I do just about EVERYTHING for her. I have no one at all to help me with her, but thats okay its just the way it is. She can have a terrible hateful temper. I wish I could move, but I can't...we have financial considerations on both of us and for this we have to stay together. She spit in my face and tried to hit me in the face some time ago and I just can't seem to get over that no matter how hard I have tried. I told her she better not ever attempt that again. Every day there is some kind of incident. Unfortunatley if I put her in a nursing home then the nursing home will take the house then I have no where to live or go and it is me paying alot of our bills and I am almost out of funds. I am out of work and nobody will hire me at my age---believe me I 've tried. I am a very well educated person and have held very high professional positions in the past now... I'm screwed in the end. Prayers are totally worthless...there isn't any so called diety listening...I now believe all that is perhaps the greatest hoax of all mankind. My mother is very lucky that I am still on earth to help her, she is clueless to my unhappiness. One thing I noticed about her dementia... it has robbed her of compassion for others around her. I don't think she can understand how much I do for her.

 

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nocryingnow answered...

Anonymous above could almost be me talking. My mom is 91, I'm 62, and we have lived together for the past 13 years. She has not been diagnosed with dementia, however, she does have severe memory and logic problems due to 30 years of untreated epilepsy. She is tiny and frail and gets around with a walker, but she has a very sharp tongue when it suits her and in her mind she is still strong and capable. She is also diabetic and I plan out her meals and serve them to her to keep her blood sugar steady, as well as coordinate her care with her doctors. As far back as I can remember my mom has been obsessed with feeding animals. She used to live in the country with acreage around her, so no one minded. But now we live in a tightly packed neighborhood, we're tight on money because I haven't been able to find work in 8 months and we're living completely off of her retirement income. We have one cat of our own that stays indoors all the time. I recently discovered that she's been opening 4 cans of cat food a day to feed OUR NEIGHBOR'S CATS in our backyard!! She's been doing it before I get up so that I won't catch her in the act, but it was obvious something was going on because the cat food was disappearing too quickly. When I asked her to stop and gave her all the compelling reasons why, she told me she was going to "do as she pleases" and then proceeded to walk up and slap me in the face! That's the first time she has ever hit me and I was so shocked by it that I instinctively slapped her back before I even knew what I was doing! Now, she's calling me a liar and claiming that I hit her first. Of course, I have no sign of her strike on me, but she has small red spot on her face where I slapped her, and believe me, it wasn't a hard slap. She's now threatening to tell her doctor's that I'm "abusing" her, but this is the first time anything like this has ever happened and now that I know she might hit me, I will be prepared and won't let it happen and certainly won't ever slap her again. My mom used to be my best friend when I was growing up and as a young adult - until she developed epilepsy and it began to change her entire personality. It breaks my heart to see my mom and former best friend become so combative and angry all the time. I, too, cannot afford to put her in a facility, because I would then be homeless. My mother has also lost her compassion for people and doesn't seem to realize the sacrifices I have made to keep her healthy and alive (my husband divorced me in 2001 shortly after we moved her in with us - said he just couldn't take it). I stopped believing in God a long time ago. There isn't anyone 'up there' to help us. We are all on our own.

 

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Mariposa7 answered...

anonymous and nocrying now.....wow! I picked the right day to google "dementia angry outbursts"! I was feeling very low and frustrated, thinking I was the only one with this problem. I turned 49 today, my angry father is 92 and I feel like my life is over with no hope ahead until he dies. I have been in the background, sacrificing much to assist my elderly parents for the last 23 years. At first it was a pleasure, and my mother passed unexpectedly 4 years ago. I now realize that her last days could not have been pleasant and am amazed at how well she managed my negative, controlling father. He is amazing at how he can flip his switch, being "normal" in front of the doctor, church people, other siblings....but is really paranoid and angry at me the person who takes him shopping, cleans his house, does his laundry, runs his farm, etc. I have tried to reach out to his doctor, but he is on his best behavior. On top of this he still sneaks out driving, which is a huge danger. His eyesight is bad and the optometrist says he is not legal to drive, but would not help me by filling out the paperwork for the DMV.

I am new at this dementia stuff, but want to thank you for sharing, and I am open to any stories of how you gals cope!

 

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RosaR answered...

Mariposa, I am glad you googled "dementia angry outbursts" and you found Caring.com. If you are looking for additional support, advice, encouragement and more you may want visit one of our Online Support at: http://www.caring.com/support-groups . The members of each group either have walked or are walking the caregiving journey and come together to help each other out . We also have an article entitled "Dealing with an Angry Person located at: http://www.caring.com/articles/7-ways-to-handle-an-angry-person If I can assist you with additional researches, please let me know.

 

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MSFreakingSucks answered...

My Mom has Multiple Sclerosis and this was something I really needed to hear from all of you. My Mom was diagnosed when I was 12 and now at 28 I can say a lot has changed. The roles have reversed dramatically. No one told me that if I accept money from my Mom she would forget giving it to me or that she came up with the idea. I guess her memory loss is overcompensated by her mind and an explanation that I must have stolen it or tricked her into giving it to me is made to explain what happned to it. I used to argue or try to reason in hopes that she would realize that I wouldn't take advantage or steal from her. It took me a long time to realize she isn't dependable or credible and that she isn't the average Mom. Now that I'm older I understand but I wish I were just forgotten instead of thought of as something I'm not. I don't argue anymore. I understand. I wish other people could understand too. My whole family thinks she just says she's sick but is just on drugs because she slurs her speech and is forgetful and often delusional or unreasonable. She gets angry and paranoid. The outbursts and randomness of the backlash is almost unbearable. People tell me all the time when I vent or I'm upset that I should stop letting her hurt me as though I bring this upon myself but they don't understand that my Mom is inside that Woman and that she hurts twice as much as I do and that if she had cancer they would be ashamed of their advice. Sometimes telling her she's been hurting me helps but it doesn't always work. I think the best we can do is love them when we can and recognize the sickness and try not to confuse the two. I tell people there is a learning curve and as her disease progresses the curve continues, for both of us. She has been deflecting her disease more recently by saying that medicines make her memory fuzzy so she stops taking it or that she doesn't know what's wrong with her when she can't get a word out that is "sitting on the edge" of her tounge. I don't blame her. She can't controll herself anymore than I can. She is much like a child. She is dangerous with a telephone because I thought I was tough and didn't need to tell people about her being sick or I didn't want people feeling sorry for me-- she makes phone calls to people (how she gets phone numbers is beyond me) and suddenly people don't speak to me anymore because she told them things that are inapropriate and they think she's fine so they listen to her delerious rants for weeks before they explode on me for things they think are true. I told my Mother in law from the start not to speak to my Mom on Facebook or on the phone and explained the situation and said that she understood and then went behind my back and argued with my Mom for weeks before she told me she had enough as though my Mom was the one who needed to stop and now I can'teven talk about my Mom without eyes being rolled or attitude. I get when people don't know but when they know her situation and they refuse to be understanding it makes life difficult. She was once a decent normal Mom so when I talk about those days my Mother's work and efforts aren't recognized. It is extremly irritating. Some days I want to never speak to her again. It is a never ending roller coaster and I want to be sure to say it sucks. Everyone says be strong and go with the lord and it will be okay but sometimes you just need to hear that it sucks, its hard, and there is no right way to go about caring for someone who is going through so many psychological changes.

 

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ellen ruddy answered...

In reply to Mudgie...I hate to say I know where you are and I know where you are going.... the "temper tantrums" are I think a part of the condition, being 'extremely articulate' makes you think that they have a point to the tantrums and I have, on several occasions thought my mother had a reason for the tantrum. She accused family members of being cruel and in time abusive. She accuse carers of stealing and she was so sure about what she was saying that some family members believed, at the beginning she was right, which created rows within the family. As time went on I learned how to 'talk her down' from this place she was and she would cry and be so sorry as she remembered some of the things she had said and done. Now the tantrums do not occur as much but that could be that her condition has worsen or that I now know the signs and have made all those who care for her to watch out for the signs and divert her attention. Hyperventilating... my Mother has started this one over the past year she can be fine one minute and the next she just starts hyperventilating for nothing... It can start with the words 'Whats wrong with me?' and off she goes... you have to learn to divert attention when she starts...change the subject, no matter what nonsense you have to talk about...with my mother its about 'cutting turf', this was something she done as a child. Home...I would be in my mothers house and she would insist that she wanted to 'go home' she reckon that although my house was nice she wanted to go to her own house. As for saying you will not send her to a Nursing Home...never say never... I nursed my mother for 4 years and was near a break down as I had to do it on my own... other family members claimed they couldn't cope with her or they had too busy of lives but they could however tell me what I was doing wrong... She had to go to hospital as the bone in her hip crumbled and she was there for 6 weeks in that time her condition worsened, as is the norm in dementia patients, they do not take well to being out of their own environment, I then had to put her into a nursing home for 2 weeks as there was a death in the family. It was during this time that I discovered my children again, I had practically being ignoring them as my mothers conditioned worsened and her condition took all my time and effort. Her doctor, her social worker and I decided that it was the best place for her. She now 'after 2 years' still looks to go home but its her childhood home she wants, she wants her brother and sisters but they are dead. She now thinks I am her sister and I have learned to go along with her. I have learned, over time, to go along with most of what she says or to divert her attention when the situation is annoying her or stressing her out... I talk about everything and anything, I ask her questions about her childhood, things she done, how people lived, where she worked etc.. this brings her to a new place where she is the queen and she can tell me the same story over and over and I still pretend it is new to me. Remember they are in a strange frightening place and their thoughts and memory's are all mixed up,. Good luck to you and remember you have a life too

 

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destinysmom answered...

My God I thought I was alone in this. My grandmother goes from perfectly fine to telling me about the 30's. She is very independent and refuses to allow anyone any type of control. My mother sees about her daily and we've trowd for months to get dr.s to help us but its gotten worse. She thinks she's broke and had has no money but she does she thinks people are coming into her home and they aren't. She has tantrums like a child would when she doesn't get qhat she wants right away. We just tonight decided to look into homes which she will resent us forever over but neither of us can provide the round the clock care she needs. Its morally the hardest thing to even think about but the option of letting her continue to live in her house and not even remember to bathe to eat or to mail the light bill isn't going to work either. I just wish I knew why this started happening. Shes 84 and she's every memory of a selfless loving woman I could ever want. I hate seeing her like this and the emoational toll its taken on my mother is at its end. Pray for my family and I have said one for each story I've read on here.

 

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ellen ruddy answered...

DESTINYSMON Your grandmother may 'resent' you for a little while and will question as to why she is where she is but I have to say I cheated with this one and told my mother she was only there for a rest. Over time she has forgotten most things, this includes my father, who she was married to for over 60 years. She does remember me but then I call with her most days but there are days when I become 'nurse', they never forget that word. Your mother needs to be saved from your grandmother, I was very near a breakdown before I placed my mother in a home and felt the deepest sense of guilt but now nearly 2 and half years later I know I done the right thing as it came to the stage that I was beginning to resent her and the hold she had over my life. I had all but lost the connection with my children, my youngest was just 10 when all this began. I spent so much time caring for her I began to resent how she was 'stealing my life'. Now she is being looked after by others I love the time I spend with her. We laugh and I just let her go to her world of begin young again and here she feels empowered and this, I think, is good. I was talking to a friend tonight who nursed her beloved father in law for five years and then at the last year she had to put him in a home as she was at breaking point. She made her decision when her own mother said 'You have to do it because you want to, not because you feel you have to'. On hearing this she realized that she had become to dislike and resent a man she had grown to love and respect since her marriage into the family and when she put him in the 'home' she found the love come back because now she did not bear the weight and responsibility of his care on her shoulders. She went to see him every day until he died and bathed and changed him but she could walk away if she wanted to and have time now for herself and her young family. Take care all and remember you do not have to carry the weight on your shoulders alone there is people out there who are only too willing to help

 

Caregiving spouse answered...

My husband has a long history of bad health: early heart attack, kidney disease, kidney transplant, a genetic disorder that impacts skin and inner organs, etc. Because of this, he is on upward of 20 medications including mood stabilizers. Yet, recently, his normally short fuse seems to have shortened even more. He has taken to screaming at strangers that they are walking too closely to him. Not only is it embarrassing, but I'm afraid he's going to scream at the wrong person some time. I tried to call one of his docs, this morning, and was told that they would not discuss the problem with me without him present. He's been in declining health for at least 10 years (he's 68) but I seem to be seeing a more rapid decline, now. Any suggestions on who I can turn to for help?

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

I am so thankful for all of the shared stories. My mom is almost 84 and her anger outbursts have brought both my sister and I to tears. We are the ones who have always been there for her and she has gotten to the point where she tells us we are horrible and worse than our brother who is a drug addict and verbally abused her back. I understand that these outbursts are due to her age and mental state but I don't have to live with her. My sister does and when I got involved to try and help my mom see the pain she is causing, she hung up on me and didn't speak to my sister for three days. She also lies and makes up stories that she thinks will benefit her or justify her behavior. There is no reasoning with her. There is no calming her down. It is awful. She also has the switch that shevturns on so others think she is a sweet lady. Her language is disgusting and shocking. I.don't know what to do anymore. I pray I am not like that when I am older. We do love her so much and this is why it hurts.

 

technogal answered...

I too am glad I googled "angry outbursts in the elderly" because less than an hour ago the nearly 94 year old mother-in-law, who's been living with us for 4 years, just exploded out of thin air while we were trying to reheat her Chicken Parmigiana. It escalated very fast, she was screaming like a 5 year old then stomped to her room for the night. She has not been diagnosed with dementia or strokes, takes no medicine that would cause these outbursts (not the first outburst) although the reason we had to move her in with us is that she thought the FBI was following her for laundering drug money because she used to walk to the bank frequently. Unfortunately this paranoia followed her to our house. The doctors are of no help. My husband is the only child so we can't get any help from family. There are days I want to say "I can't take it anymore! You have to choose me or your mother." Today I'm near tears. Thanks for listening. My heart goes out to the others who have posted here.

 

 
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