Recently one of my neighbors bought a new car. immediately, every neighbor was in her driveway; kicking the tires, sitting in the driver’s seat and looking under the hood. Someone handed me the owner’s manual as it was being passed around from hand to hand. I am not really sure why we were all looking at the owner’s manual, but each of us flipped the pages and nodded along. Some of the neighborhood men were fully engrossed in the engine, pointing out things to one another and trading “my car” stories. Without warning, the car’s horn began blaring, causing the men to jump back ten feet. Quickly, the owner jumped in the car, frantically trying to silence the screams of the car horn. She pressed the automatic start, nothing. She locked and unlocked the doors, nothing. She shut all the open car doors….nothing.
“Who has the owner’s manual?” She yelled over the noise. ” See if you can find out why this stupid thing is going off and how to shut it off!”
There I stood. Holding the book. I flipped the pages looking for the index, searching for the word horn. One of the guys fell along side, watching and reading along. Another guy was asking the owner where the real key was. ” Being that it is push button start, do you have a real key?”, someone asked. ” How does the whole button start thing work? “, another asked. Suddenly, the enjoyment of looking at the new car had become chaotic and stressful for everyone!
You know,caring for dementia patients is very similar to that fiasco. One minute, everything can be just fine and dandy, the next second, royal chaos. The caregiver will go though a myriad of emotions, ranging from frustration to anger. while trying to sort out how to redirect the behavior or calm the person. The same is true when the dementia patient repeats himself over an over and over and over……the caregiver struggles to answer the same question over and over and over and over…….it’s all very frustrating.
What we must always remember about dementia, is that it changes constantly. Thoughts fleet, sentences are fragmented, behaviors become random…..there is little consistency to the behavior of someone with dementia. Random. We, as caregivers, must always be expecting of the next thing, the next sentence, the lost thought pattern and the possible aggressive behavior. We must cope with the repetitive questions and statements, continually answering with the same answer. It can be a frustrating experience and exhausting for the caregiver as well. Dementia is very much like the neighbors car horn, blaring for no reason, and no one is sure of how to silence it. Many approaches are attempted to quiet the noise, but are futile. The new car, that was the focus of everyone’s admiration suddenly became “this stupid thing”. Understood frustration.
Back to the car, while I was still flipping through the micro print manual, someone took the car key and put it in the ignition, immediately stopping the horn for blowing. For the next five minutes, everyone offered their thoughts on what would’ve happened to make it go off. ” Maybe the panic button was hit”. “Maybe the doors were open too long”, Maybe the range for the key and the keyless start were too far apart”. “Maybe it was a fluke. ” Just as it is with dementia; no one knows why it happens or really causes an onset of behaviors, but we all have our opinions that we freely express. It would be so easy if dementia/Alzheimer’s came with an owner’s manual, complete with a “troubleshooting” section………………