How to handle outbursts in public?

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I'm trying to get my mom out of the house since she only leaves the house for doctor visits. She has let her appearance go and I thought taking her to the hair salon for a cut and color every once in awhile would brighten her mood. Unfortunately, 2 times she has had loud, angry outbursts and lashes out at me all the way there or at the salon in front of people. This time it was because she couldn't figure out how to write a check.I offered to finish it for her but every 2 seconds she was fiddling with the checkbook asking where the check was until she got very very agitated about the tip for some reason and started yelling loudly about it in the salon.

Her hairdresser, bless this angel, saw what was happening and showed my mother the money for the tip and said, "thank you for the tip. See, I'm putting in my pocket now." That seemed to settle my mother down a little but she was very wound up over the check and tip issue. Then she wet her pants. Thankfully we had made sure she was wearing Depends.

Is it too much to take her to the salon? I'm sure I could find someone to come to the house but the point was to get her out of the house. She is content to sleep til past noon, stare at the walls, eat and go back to sleep again. big sigh.

Any advice?

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What a wise and perceptive hairdresser that was to treat your mother like she did! She deserved her tip and then some.
When I first read your question I wondered if you mom had agoraphobia (afraid of leaving the house). This is still a possibility, but considering that the hair salon seemed to be where she had the outburst, there seems to be more to it.

I agree with Sandwich42. If your mom hasn't been seen by a neurologist to see if she has dementia, this needs to be done. Sometimes dementia symptoms can be the result of infections or medication interactions so everything needs to be examined just in case.

I do agree that taking people with dementia out can be either good or not so good depending on their personality and their stage of dementia, if that's the problem. For many, a trip out can be invigorating as long as they aren't over stimulated. However, routine and familiar surroundings are very important to many, so going out of the house can cause extreme agitation.

It's very hard when people fight having their hair done. Your mom may not like the touching that is involved or if she gets a shampoo she may be afraid of the water. She may not understand what the scissors are for. Most outbursts are based on fear or confusion.

Getting to the bottom of what is wrong is just a first step. If she has dementia, then try to become as educated as you can about how to cope with it.

Please keep coming back to this community. There are many wise caregivers and professionals who can offer not only advice and tips but community and comfort.
Take care,
Carol
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a lady friend of mine said she made up little index cards indicating her mother had dementia and to please forgive any words or upsetting behaviors that might inconvenience the other people. She said this would help if they went out to eat and she made crude/rude remarks out loud. My friend said she would quietly slip a card to the table closest to them and it explained the situation. Most people understand if an elderly person does this but it can be embarassing, I am sure, to the daughter/son who is out with them. But you can't help it and neither can they. We need more understanding people in our world.
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I come down in the middle here. I appreciate the understanding that often an elder is more comfortable in their own routines and environment. And, it's also true that it can feel encouraging and refreshing to go outside our environment for visits.

The challenge I see it, is figuring out how to work with another person, whose fears are different from our own. Some of those may be heightened by the vagueness that medications can add to one's abilities to respond to challenges as they arise. It matters for the person leading someone to a not-regular activity, to pay attention, respond, and explain, not ignore those fears.

So many people "chat" over the process of mobility - comings and goings - and we do not consider the fears of those with impaired ability to balance, see, hear, remember. Many people are conditioned to try to chat, be cheerful, assume that an elder can follow along, doing essentially two things at once.

I learned in guiding my younger brother's (brain injury) adult care, that he needs both down time - alone, and social exposure, but he needs them in a balance, and pace of transition that he can follow along with. Our culture often suggests activities or outings as if they were intrinsically wonderful in themselves, without considering the wish and need, for parties to follow along - which means a slower pace when senses decline, and being with someone alert to this need for slowness - as one gets into the car, as one tries to remember, did I bring my checkbook. Did I use the restroom? Will we come back home safely and promptly? If I need to use the bathroom but am too embarrassed to disrupt or say so, will someone respond promptly and guide me gently to find it?

Is some caretaker person, relative or paid - paying attention with cheerful, positive help, keeping in mind the primary focus of helping me with this outing, rather than fitting in with the hairdresser or others in the social setting. Building that trust and awareness starts when I arrive to pick up an elder, who is reassured by my responsiveness to every hesitation, agreeing with their fear and helping them resolve each concern as we go out the door.

Many elders, who remember the role of being parents to their children, hide their immediate physical difficulties from them. But when you lose considerable vision, hearing, mobility - even going across the room takes focus and being with someone who respects how disorienting this is, and wait for your slowness, not chat over your efforts to collect yourself and take on a new setting, which is not remembered in detail and is thus a challenge for you, so many unknowns,

All outings are risky, when you fear your ability to adapt in new expectations - which include conversations with people who are not familiar with the slower world of elders.

We don't live life from the outside, but the inside. Our culture has focused on the goals and values of the young, judging people as happy based on activities, social status, external trappings. As elders, and as someone with a different life path which included considerable separation from mainstream, I know we crave to see someone willing to let go of that external perspective, who wants to tune in to listen dependably and quickly, even if just briefly, and be ready to help if we have any fears. If someone shows that close one-to-one transition awareness, we can go out, and feel safer, and once settled in and sitting down, we can then enjoy the new, refreshing experience, or even the lovely one of a haircut.
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I found that my mom was happiest at home where she felt safe. I had her friends visit and have lunch when she was able. Her grandchildren would visit and that made her happy. We would be watching TV and I realized she wasn't watching the televsion but watching me. At night she walked into my room numerous times calling my name. It took awhile to realize she just needed reassurance that I was close by. She did much better in her own home around things she was famlliar with. Taking her out might make you feel better, and I mean this in the nicest way, what's important is what makes her feel better. If she wants to sleep let her.As long as her personal hygiene is taken care of and she's eating I wouldn't force anything it causes too much anxiety for both of you.
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There comes a time where outings do more harm than good. Have you had your mom evaluated for dementia? If not, I would do that ASAP. Taking brain images can tell the doctor exactly what kind of dementia she might have, as they are not all Alzheimers and do not all have the same treatment path. What you describe is not normal aging.

I feel this is a critical step to understand what you're dealing with, if or what kind of anxiety meds might help, and to inform your planning for her ongoing care. If it is a dementia, the road will not get easier and you will need a lot of help.

My mom has Alzheimers - moderately severe impairment - and as much as I love the IDEA of taking her on outings to see the world and have nice experiences, wild horses could not make me do it. She is much less agitated on her predictable daily schedule, where the health care aids get her up, dressed, her meds, and to meals at the same time every day. She has social interaction with staff and the other residents on her unit. There are activities. Everybody there knows what to expect and what to do when it happens.

She is in a constant rage about her hair. It's cute on her at this length (at ear lobes), but she absolutely will not consider visiting the onsite beauty salon or barber. One lady, one time in the dining room, supposedly told mom that she had a bad haircut there. That one sentence out of that lady's mouth forever ruined any chance I had of getting mom to the beauty shop.

If I took those words at face value, I would perceive a problem. However, I don't believe that actually happened. And so what if it did? Maybe the lady who had the "bad" haircut didn't specify what she wanted. Maybe the haircut looked great and made it easier to self-care for her hair, but it wasn't the same haircut she had when she was 20 when she needed 50 curlers to sleep on every night. Who knows. Every salon in business has had complaints. It's no reason to avoid it without a good try. I'm not going to go through the upset of getting mom out of the building and to an appointment or to a walk-in place.
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I have seen the same thing with my 94 year old dad. He loves to get out of the assisted living facility and go for a ride in the car. However, any encounters where he has to participate in any form or fashion, particularly with strangers, are just way to stressful for him.
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Taking your mom to the salon was a very thoughtful thing to do and I'm sure she enjoyed having her hair done. But all the stimulation and noise may have been too much for her. Bless the hairdresser for treating your mom with kindness and sensitivity. I think hairdressers see that kind of thing on a pretty regular basis as most women your mom's age still like to get their hair washed and set and styled.

Maybe it was a one time thing with your mom. I would test the waters again because if it was a one time thing getting your mom to the salon on a regular basis would be a wonderful way for her to get out of the house. Write out the check before you leave the house next time and make sure your mom has the exact change for the tip. If she has another outburst you'll know for sure that you probably can't take her out anymore.
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I have slipped a small card disclosing my husband's Alzheimer's diagnosis to the nurse at several doctor appointments. It makes the whole visit much easier and the doctor knows to direct any questions to me rather than to my husband.
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For one, I think people understand that something cognitive is going on with your mom....don't worry about being embarrased. I took my 90-year-old grandma (with dementia) to the salon 2 weeks ago for a perm and color. She REFUSED to move out of the waiting room chair for 30 minutes! The hair dresser and this sweet woman getting her hair done came over and tried to get her to sit in the beauticians chair, but she refused. She eventually decided she would participate, (30 minutes later) but by that time her hair color was the only doable service we could do, since the hair dressers next client was coming in soon.

Just the other day we went out to eat and she yelled at the bus boy for making too much noise with the dishes, even though the noise level was perfectly acceptable in the restaurant. You are not alone! Just do what you can to calm her down, and go about your day. People understand.

My grandmother also enjoys sitting, sleeping and staring at the wall. It is becoming more and more difficult to engage her in activities or conversation, but none-the-less, do what you think is right. Even though you are experiencing some outbursts in public, I still think it's good for them to get a change of pace sometimes. Good luck!
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My husband has brain damage and alcoholic dementia, as well, and tends toward inappropriate lashing out on occasion. Once, in a restaurant setting, when his ire was directed toward me, I turned to him and quietly exhorted him to calm down, assured him repeatedly that I loved him, and informed him that yelling me in public was waaaayyyy inappropriate. He responded, after a moment of thought, with a very abject apology, and said, "That wasn't me." And it wasn't. On another more recent outing -- for a haircut, coincidentally -- he lashed out at the conclusion of the cut, stating that it was "the worst haircut he'd ever had," after which he stormed out of the shop. I was left to make apologies to the poor woman -- who had actually done a very nice job -- and I simply explained to her that he suffers from a form of dementia and offered my regrets for what he had put her through. I also gave her a nice tip and thanked her for her service. Needless to say, though, we won't be going back there!
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