Can a patient's negative attitude speed up the progression of Alzheimer's?

3 answers | Last updated: Sep 18, 2016
Justkeepswimming-li,ny asked...

My mother is just on the verge of early severe Alzheimer's. I have been telling her "theraputic" lies to keep her calm. One of them is that her parents are out and will be back soon to pick her up. Asking where her mother or parents are is usually the first thing she asks when she gets up. For the past few days, when I tell her they will be back soon, she gets withdrawn and refuses to get up. I used to be able to get her past her feelings of abandonment, but it is becoming more difficult. I am afraid that her feelings of withdrawal, abandonment, not being worthy will send her more quickly into the last stage. I know this is not my original question, but what can I do to help her?

Expert Answers

Brenda Avadian, brings knowledge, hope, and joy to family caregivers for loved ones with Alzheimer's and dementia. She cared for her father with Alzheimer's and helps families one-on-one and in groups. She is the author of eight books, including the pioneering memoir "Where's my shoes?" My Father's Walk through Alzheimer's and the Finding the JOY in Alzheimer's series. She presents vivid, compelling, and funny keynotes to both professional and family caregiving audiences.

Yes, a patient's negative attitude can speed up the progression of Alzheimer's. However, it seems your mother is at a stage where she is declining regardless of your attempts to calm her with therapeutic lying; which, incidentally, is a good approach.

Experiment with different stories. Next time, explain that her parents didn't want to wake her while she was resting. They went out for breakfast and asked that when she got up she'd have her breakfast before they returned home. This approach will help her feel cared for and loved. You may even get her motivated cooperation!

For more ideas on communicating with your mother, read: How to Talk to an Elder with Dementia Using Validation Therapy, Redirection & Other Techniques

Community Answers

Justkeepswimming-li,ny answered...

Thank you, Brenda. I do try different answers and will continue to do so in the hope that something wil work. Mom seems to twist them all into something sad for her. I do suspect it is the stage of the disease. Since my Dad passed last fall, Mom has been steadily declining. I continuously research and read to make sure I am doing all I can to make her quality of life as good as possible. I do not like to push the meds but am wondering if an antidepressant might help. Any thoughts?

Brenda avadian answered...

I think your approach to try something different (see your comment below this answer) is the best way to help your mother's negative attitude as the progression of Alzheimer's continues.

Know that this too shall pass as the disease continues.

As for anitdepressants. It depends on her unique situation. Sometimes, antidepressants are beneficial and just what is needed and other times, they make patients worse. KNOW, that antidepressants take time to work and get into the system. Some may take 3 weeks or more before your mother feels their effect (whether good or bad). If they don't work, her doctor will instruct you to slowly decrease her meds until she's off them.

It's best to discuss this with her doctor who knows her situation best.