Is it okay to correct a dementia patient for being mean to their caregivers?

4 answers | Last updated: Oct 01, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

Is it okay to correct a dementia patient for being mean to their caregivers?

Expert Answers

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 of Learning to Speak Alzheimer's. Also, she currently is in private practice as an Alzheimer's family therapist. Ms. Koenig Coste also serves as President of Alzheimer Consulting Associates, implementing state-of-the-art Alzheimer care throughout the United States.

There is a very fine line we walk, as caregivers, between gentle reminding and strong persuasion. The first may sometimes work, the latter usually never does. If the person with dementia has always had a strong controlling presence, with being 'mean' as a personality trait, then attempting to correct this person will most likely create increased negative behavior. On the other hand, if this meanness is a change in the personality she possessed before dementia, then gently letting her know that her words are hurting someone may change the way she addresses her caregiver. This may have to be repeated often. It is important to note, folks with a dementia such as Alzheimer's disease are quite able to read our non-verbal or body language. If the caregiver's reaction is hurt and sadness at the negative comments then the patient may realize the injustice of the remarks. It may also be that noting the sad reaction may be just what the patient intended. A rule of thumb would be: help the caregiver non-verbally express emotion using facial expression and gestures. The appropriate response, even if it may seem counter-intuitive, to stop the mean-spirited comments will most likely be found whether it be laughter, sadness, or feigned tears! Dementia folk do not generally react well to any mode of correction or chastisement no matter how lightly it is offered. Since they tend to be feeling a great deal of daily failure, reminding them of their loss through correction only makes them more aware of this slow demise. It may be more helpful to support the caregiver rather than correcting the patient.

Community Answers

Art4kelly answered...

I have had to firmly yet nicely tell my Mom that what she has done is not nice. I have even had to go as far as saying that I will not discuss the subject till she can speak nicer to me. It seems to work and she doesn't get upset. I feel I am approaching her unacceptable behavior the same as I did with my is very strange to be using this with my "Mom".

Marinparent answered...

interesting article. i have found lately that on occasion my father (90 with mild dementia) is irritable and short with me--for example, if i get up to do things around his apartment, he sometimes says "you just can't sit still, can you?" This hurt my feelings, til i realized that what he really needs is to have someone moving at a pace similar to his own, and he finds comfort in having me sit in the same chair my mom sat in, his wife of 65 years until her death 6 months ago. So I decided to just do the little clean-up things around his place after he goes to dinner and before i head back to my own home--takes an extra 10 minutes out of my day, but i think he feels better if i just sit with him and watch the news for an hours every day and not try to "do" too much. We have to keep remembering, they are sooo frustrated with not being able to function as they used to, and that would make anyone crabby.

Elizabeth gonggg answered...

My father is mean and none of your answers worked. Chinese people feel that don't need you. My answer is nothing. Keep food on hand and let them abuse you.