As an Alzheimers or dementia caregiver you have to communicate with your loved one, but sometimes that is super hard when they accuse you of always “yelling” at them!
This generally happens with my mother-in-law when I am telling her something like she needs to do like take a shower or stop spending so much money on plastic flowers (she has SO MANY plastic flowers!)
OF COURSE she doesn't want to hear what I am saying, she has a different idea of how she wants to spend her time or money!
That said, it really is perception of the way that I talk that matters.
I guess I can understand this a little… I used to accuse my husband of “yelling” at me when we first got married, he just was not talking “nice”. Eventually he realized that he had to change the tone of voice he was using or we would just end up arguing over something he never meant to be a fight!
So here are some tips and ideas about how to stop “yelling” at your dementia or Alzheimers loved one!
1. Use Your “Happy Voice”
Dogs and maybe loved ones respond better to high pitched, happy voices… a little sing songy. Maybe think of her as if you are talking to a toddler. I KNOW this sounds stupid, but if you can avoid this problem it will make everyone happier!
For me, this works great! I spend all day talking to the dogs in a fun voice, my son responds better happy voice, and my mother in law stops thinking I am mad all the time.
I REALLY have to mind myself around them! Many times I am just not in a “happy voice” kind of mood, but the whole day goes better if I can get my voice under control!
2. Lower The Tone of Your Voice
Now, you may have the kind of dementia Mom who says, “you are talking to me like a baby”, in which case you would not use the happy voice technique.
You might need to lower the timber of your voice and talk low and slow.
Think about your loved one as a cornered animal who doesn't want any startling things to happen!
Lower the pitch, talk a little slower and be more deliberate with your words.
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3. Lower the volume
Another thing is maybe your loved one has sensitive ears… I KNOW it is hard because many of our loved ones have hearing loss, but maybe you got in the habit of yelling before they had hearing aids or you really DO yell all the time out of habit and frustration.
I do know anything loud startles my Mom. She jerks when she hears the dogs bark, the dryer buzz or anything loud sounding, so I am sure when I yell, it hits that same nerve.
4. Fix Your Face
Fix your face… my Mom always told me to “FIX YOUR FACE” when I was younger. Put on a smile even when you aren't feeling “smiley”.
Some people call this having “resting bitch face”. I for sure have it when I am working from home and trying to figure out something. I am not mad or grumpy, just concentrating, but my forehead is scrunched up and I have two deep furrows between my eyes, which makes me look mad.
(honestly, oftentimes the cat and I will sit around making mean faces at each other! we both have resting bitch face!)
This was really brought to my attention by my son who is a former foster kid and who looks at my face to see what is happening in his world. If I look mad, he gets nervous so I had to start minding what kind of mood I was projecting out on the world!
I KNOW! It is hard to have a pleasant expression when you are busy or sad or even just concentrating on something, but for our loved ones, often we are the only company they have and our moods affect their lives.
5. Grow a Thicker Skin
Sometimes it is not about them, it is about you! When they know they have gotten under your skin and you do raise your voice or become frustrated, at least they got a reaction… which is sometimes what they are looking for.
I KNOW, this seems crazy, but we learned about this when we adopted kids from foster care. They were sad, or mad, or lonely and wanted attention from us, good or bad.
So the best thing you can do is keep your cool! I am super impervious to people not liking me (when I am in a good place) so maybe channel a little bit of your inner “Tara” and ignore that she doesn't like you right now!
Make it a personal challenge to not get upset at all in a day. Balance yourself with a couple of deep breaths before you go into her room or answer a question.
How To Stop Yelling Wrapup
Alrighty then, those are the things that you can try to maybe make things a little better.
For sure, sometimes we ARE frustrated and yelling, but oftentimes it is just a perception on her or your part that is causing the trouble.
Last but not least, I KNOW you are doing the best you can and this is just one more thing to have to do, but really, taking just a little bit of effort, everything might get better for everyone!
I know all this and I still yell from time to time. I know that both my mom and son react better when I have a happy face, but sometimes I am busy and JUST DON'T HAVE THE ENERGY to be happy…. but I try the best I can!
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