As a dementia or Alzheimers caregiver, we have all had that moment when we look at our loved one and think, who is this hateful person? Here are some tips and ideas we can do to make the sting a little less hurtful (and not just remembering it is the disease not them!)
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What Do I Mean By Being Hateful?
Being an in-home caregiver means that I can never really “avoid” my mother-in-law. She is always around, either sitting in the chair or in her room where I have to bring her drinks and pills most of the day.
And sometimes she says the most hateful things… like “what do I look like, your slave” or “get out, I don't need your help” when obviously she does.
Your loved one may accuse people of abusing her or even talk of deviance or be extremely racially divisive to family members.
Is It The “Real” Them Coming Out?
Sometimes I know that my mom is being hateful because it is an extension of “her”. Like when she tells my stocky son he is fat and needs to lose weight.
But sometimes it is dementia that is doing it too.
I know a number of caregivers whose loved ones were always narcissistic and the disease is just making it worse. This is such a hard situation that none of us asked for, but we need to be able to keep ourselves a little more sane.
7 Tips For Things To Do When Your Loved One Is Hateful
Okay, these work sometimes for me and sometimes I still snap and am nasty back to her. You can't expect to be perfect all the time so don't get down on yourself if you break, just try to do better going forward.
1. Ask for help
My first go to is to ask for help delivering pills or asking her to do things.
She thinks her son hung the moon so something coming from him is much more likely to get a good response than me “nagging her again”. For example, she now wears Depends because “Johnny got them for her”… whatever works!
I KNOW, it is super frustrating to have to go to someone else when you are doing all the work normally, but if it works, use it!
2. Get away
For some caregivers this is super hard, especially if you don't have a good support network, but sometimes you just have to spend some time away.
Being a caregiver is grueling and a day to day trauma, but if you can find a way to spend some time away, you can come back with your armor polished up a little and ready to protect you again!
I can totally tell when I don't have one more ounce of patience left and then just have to take a break.
3. Talk to people who understand
There is really no one in my circle of “real friends” who is going through this right now. And while they try to help and give me advice, most of it is not all that relevant.
So I belong to an amazing Facebook group of Alheimers and Dementia caregivers where I can ask questions and get advice.
Sometimes just seeing that I am not the only one struggling gets me through the day.
4. Check for UTIs
We can tell when Mom is getting a UTI (Urinary Tract Infection) because she gets more and more saucy (and weird, but that is another post!)
When she has a UTI she loses more of her memory, gets more frustrated and nasty.
For this one you need to contact their primary care doctor and ask for a blood test to see if she has a UTI. Antibiotics will help in this situation and get her back on track.
(please note, many Alheimers and Dementia peeps will not complain about the “normal” signs of a UTI, you can only find out if they have one through a blood test)
Additional Resource :: Memory Loss In Your Elderly Mom? Check UTI First!
5. Get them to do something “productive”
We all like to feel needed as a person, and mostly our dementia loved ones are not productive and mostly a burden.
But they sometimes do things that they think are “helpful” like folding papers or stacking tissues.
Find out what makes your loved one feel good about themselves and ask for “help” when they are being nasty. Sometimes just feeling needed can knock them out of their mood.
6. Give them a treat
Okay, here is a thing… our Mom loves chocolate and that is an instant mood fixer.
I KNOW, all the sugar is not good for her, and we use this sparingly, but when she is REALLY HATEFUL a nice Hersey's bar can make all the difference in the world.
In addition to the chocolate, she also thinks she is getting away with something and having more control over her life. I can understand this because to her it must seem like we are always telling her what to do and bossing her around.
7. Remember they are scared
This one is SO HARD to do, especially when they are being hateful. But you want to be nicest to them when they deserve it the least.
I also have to do this for my son I adopted from foster care. When he is super grumpy or disagreeable is when he needs a hug the most.
Because of all the training I got about trauma for the kids, I can recognize that Mom is experiencing trauma, being scared that she doesn't understand what is going on.
Dealing With Hateful Dementia Wrapup
Okay, that is a lot, but just one more thing that helps me sometimes. Even now Mom has such moments of kindness and grace.
Our big girl lost her job due to the pandemic and Mom let her skip rent on her condo. She also loves getting things for the kids (even though the gifts don't always make sense).
When she is being really hateful I try to remember that “Mom” is still in there and this is just the disease (I KNOW, I promised not to say that but it is true sometimes!)