Re-Orientation for dementia.

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My Mom is 92 and in early stages of dementia (not Alzheimers - multi infarct dementia per the doctor). Part of her problem is confusion and part is word-finding difficulties. Is it helpful or even useful to ask her questions or give hints to help her clear up her confusion? Example: she looks at the clock at 6 pm and says it's "60 minutes". When I ask, she can tell me it was 5 o'clock an hour earlier and will be 7 o'clock and hr later, but still has trouble making the leap to 6 o'clock. Should I try to help her come up with 6 o'clock on her own, or just give her the answer? Does it help preserve brain function to have her come up with the right words (as in use it or lose it) or is it going to be too frustrating for her?

13 Comments

3930 helpful answers
You'll have to go with your heart and her frustration level. Watch her reactions. Give her time to come up with the answer, but don't let her feel humiliated either by jumping in too soon or by watching her struggle and be embarrassed.

If she seems to need help, try and be as off-hand as possible with it. Try to read her body language. You won't always be right, but preserving her dignity is important. Yes, using her brain is important, but struggling to find a word or make sense of something likely won't help. Reminders, notes, white boards, other things around the house to provide hints can be good.

Sensitivity is essential, and you have that or you wouldn't ask.

Good luck,
Carol
Dear Carol that was very good info. I wish people where around like you when my mother first started getting sick. Everyting you say is true. You have to have a understand of the illness, it is scarey at time. Of what they can remember and what is forgtton. And the next a question is asked out of the blue about someone who passed away a lond ago. My mom asked about grandma (her mom) I know she does understand so just go along with things sometimes change the subject. My mom still knows me, but this past Sunday we went as a family, no she did not remember her grandchildren, or even my husband. That was after she huged and kissed him all over. (then asked who are you?). She thinks I am still her little girl. Carol that was very good advice. patrica61 ustcompansaionl
3930 helpful answers
Thanks for your kind words, Patricia. We all share our experiences and knowledge, but the caregiver is the one who has to make the call, each time, about what is right. However, remembering how we would like to be treated if we were having these problems is a good starting point. You sound like a wonderful caregiver.
Carol
Success is important for anybody suffering from a memory impairment. As far as opportunities to exercise her brain, yes they are important. Rather than quizzing or asking questions, I would instead engage her in mentally stimulating activities such as match games, simple crossword puzzles, scrabbel is great and if that is too much for her, many individuals can be very successful at Junior Scrabble (I do take issue with the childlike decorations on the gameboard but it is the best we have right now. I have personally attempted to contact Hasbor with some suggestions but have been unable to make contact with the right people). I don't know your mom's level of impairment so you are the best judge of how much to challenge without making her feel frustrated or upset. There are many computer based brain fitness systems available. My assisted living community offers Posit Science to our residents and members of our demential neighborhood have found success. Comments from class participants include improved word finding after completing an 8 week session. Good Luck. Remember, living in the moment with your mom, grabbing the crest of the wave, her moments of greatest clarity and riding through the troughs when the fog sets in more thickly will help you determine on a moment to moment basis how best to help you keep your mom's mind as active as possible.
3930 helpful answers
My mom loved crossword puzzles and I got her the New York Times books for years. When she could no longer do those, I got her some easier ones, but then someone brought her one of those books called EASY Crossword puzzles - with the big squares - and she was furious and humiliated. I agree with Lois, and wish her and others success in getting some of these companies to make a version of their games aimed as "junior" have more dignified designs. They'd likely sell like crazy.

Carol
Thank you all for your input. We tried scrabble for a while, but it became too difficult for her. She could only come up with three or maybe four letter words, and it frustrated her because she knew she wasn't doing what she was capable of (or used to be capable off. How horrible to know your mind is going and not be able to do much about it). Plus, vision is a huge issue, macular denegeration wiped out one eye and the other has cataracts. I've thought about games like Sorry! where she has to count, and of course conversation always goes along with games. Have day of the week signs up to help there. My biggest concern was whether or not I was pushing her too hard by having her try to find the right words. I guess you all said what I've been kind of doing by instinct, helping where she needs it, trying to find the balance. It's just so emotionally hard to see an intelligent woman struggling so hard just to talk. Thanks to all of you for your support. Don't know where we'd be without each other.
3930 helpful answers
I tried so hard with my dad, who'd always been a voracious reader. I got large print books because of his eyes, but his brain couldn't retain the information to read. It all broke my heart. That's what you're dealing with - the pain of watching the decline. You are a kind person and you know your Mom. Keep going with your gut and trying to find things for her that keep her interested. Going for drives helps some people, others hate it.

Take care and keep checking in. We understand.
Carol
Thanks for the comment. They certainly would sell like crazy. Sounds like you worked lovingly at keeping your mom active and engaged as much as possible. I have know many family members in my 25+years of eldercare. Most were extraordinarily devoted. I am blessed for having know them.
3930 helpful answers
Lois, family caregivers rapidly pick up on people in facilities who are "just doing their job" and those, like you, who really care. I'm sure you have helped many, many people in your career and am very glad to see you taking time to contribute to this site.
Best,
Carol
I am passionate about eldercare. I focused my graduate studies in eldercare, specifically depression and dementia care. Caring for an elder loved one whether in their home, the caregiver's home, a professional care setting, or long distance can be both stressful and rewarding. I urge all caregivers to take care of themselves, ask for help, allow those who care about you to help, and remember it's okay to have boundaries and limitations.

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