How to Gain a Sense of Control Over Dementia

Hopelessness is a strong -- and strongly poisonous -- emotion for caregivers. Unfortunately, it's also a perfectly natural response to the relentless march of dementia. The way to combat a sense of losing hope is by gaining control.

A few ideas about how to do this:

  • First, realize that there are many choices within dementia care. Every symptom, for example, can be handled in a multitude of ways. There may not be a perfect solution, or one that turns things back to how they once were, but at least there's usually some way to respond that helps you feel like you're doing something and improving matters for you and your loved one.

  • Address troublesome emotions by talking to a trusted friend or a trained counselor and by writing them out in a secret journal or to a circle of other caregivers in online community posts. The basic act of "naming" your feelings and problems helps you to gain mastery over them, psychologists know.

  • Do one positive thing for yourself each day. Whether big (arrange to get away for an hour by yourself) or small (buy yourself flowers at the supermarket), every act of self-kindness puts you on a path toward, not away from, hope.


over 2 years ago, said...

My wife is in complete denial of having Alzheimers, in spite of my rating using your symptoms. Her short term memory continues to depreciate, as does he "Executive Reasoning" when dealing with multiple subjects. Any urging by me creates denial followed by hostility. My 2 middle age daughters agree with my findings. How do I get her to ask her Doctor about it? She has reacted strongly to any mention of it to her Doctor---threatening me with severe retaliation. In this case, what could be accomplished, even if we did tell her Doctor? Is this step worth the dire results in our marriage?


over 2 years ago, said...

I needed this reminder!


over 3 years ago, said...

This made me think of something my sister said years ago. In her 30's she suddenly converted to an extremely evangelical Christian denomination, and I was utterly fascinated by how she might have arrived at her new faith with all its strict doctrines and concrete beliefs. I would try to listen to her what I considered "dogmatic" and "rigid" statements of "truth" politely and with real curiosity, because she was my sister and I loved her, but it was very "far out" because we'd been raised by a scientist father and a linguist mother with really no religious (or non-religious, for that matter) training or exhortations. One time I just couldn't keep my mouth shut any longer and I burst out, "Oh, HOW can you BELIEVE that??" She took no offense whatsoever, and immediately replied with a grin, "Oh, it's easy! I CHOOSE to believe it!" As I read the article above, I felt myself mulling over some thoughts which I've found comforting in my journey as a spousal dementia caregiver: I CHOOSE to be my husband's caregiver. I CHOOSE to believe that treating him with love and respect is the right thing to do. I CHOOSE to deliberately educate myself about dementia, and to continue to grow in effectiveness as a caregiver. I CHOOSE to work to create an atmosphere which directly works to minimize his FEAR, to reinforce his knowledge that I LOVE HIM, and to create opportunities for us both to LAUGH. I CHOOSE to believe that I will be guided in these goals as this road progresses with its potholes and sharp unmarked turns...I CHOOSE to believe that this is the hand I have been dealt by the universe, that it is neither "good" nor "bad", and my job is to play it as well as I can.


over 3 years ago, said...

I know what you mean by hopelessness. Last night after I blew up at him about 5 times, I wanted to just "give up." But then where do I go to give up? The problem is still there so I must fight it or lost my drive to care. And I do care for him. He's been my lover-hubby for 63 years,and now he needs me more than ever before. God must help me. That's all the hope I have!


over 3 years ago, said...

For those of you who haven't read the book, Learning to Speak Alzheimer's, please do. It has given me a whole new outlook. A lot of the information I knew and used but some of the ideas reaffirmed issues that I'd had with my Grandmother and now my Mother. The eye sight changing and live in their world. It's alot easier than you might think....


about 4 years ago, said...

I am frustrated over dental problems and the continuous repitition of how the prcedure will work. I frankly do not know. Recently my sons made an appointment for my wife at a USF clinic. I could not get her to go with hysterics and obviously am back at square one for myself. Frustrated


about 4 years ago, said...

My husband has mild dementia, getting worse by the minute, it seems. Some days, of course, better than others and he can act almost normal for short periods of time. It is helpful just to know that it's normal to feel hopeless about the situation. Some well-meaning friends/relatives would tell me I shouldn't feel that way. I know I shouldn't, but I do. That was the extent of their 'help'. I do talk with a counselor, which is very helpful in sorting out some of the feelings... or even identifying them. It's impossible to deal with feelings when you can't pinpoint what it is you are feeling. I like the idea of doing something positive for myself every day. Will see if that helps.


over 4 years ago, said...

In early stages for my husband I never thought about the emotion for me thank you gloria


over 4 years ago, said...

Reminding me to take time for myself!


over 4 years ago, said...

It reminded me that there are things I can do for myself the break up the cycle of one thing after another in helping my mom.


over 4 years ago, said...

It helped a lot, because I get very emotional about her condition since she is at such a young age. She does have moments of outburst that are directed towards our 7 yr old daughter and I just want to get away from it with my little girl, so thanks.


about 5 years ago, said...

"can and cannot understand" is frustrating in my caregiver roll. Understandable but difficult to get used to. After deep disappointment that my wife's memory is really failing, I've found and celebrate the brief times when her memory shines through. This evening she helped me with a word that I could not spell. Miraculously her disposition is cheerful and sunny (most of the time). I know that may change. Meanwhile I enjoy the pluses, a day at a time. I feel the encouragement and support of family and friends.


about 5 years ago, said...

I appreciate the accent on the positive and the sharing of these feelings.


over 5 years ago, said...

My husband is trying to cope with what his mother can & cannot understand, especially in regards to her decision-making. He is having a hard time figuring out that he has to make more decisions for her since her judgement is no longer ver good. She has been in a nursing home since mid-March, and he is only beginning to understand that she will not be able to come home & take care of herself.