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My widowed, 94-year-old dad is in Memory Care & driving me crazy! He doesn't have Alzheimer's & is fairly high functioning mentally compared to the other residents, but short-term memory is poor. He asks me periodically how old he is, and how I'm related to him. Anyway, I visit twice a week & he repeats how he isn't doing well, his eyes are bad (he has progressive macular degeneration for many years & can still see some), he's constipated, he's all by himself, I'm the only one he has, if it wasn't for me he doesn't know what he would do, etc, etc. He is on an antidepressant and an antianxiety med but they don't seem to be doing any good. He's always been a "half-empty" kind of guy but this is intolerable! I start to feel sorry for him & want to do something to help, but rationally I know his problems are not fixable. It's getting so I don't want to visit & I know that won't work. He would just get the staff to call me on his phone & he repeats the same things, plus, "I just need to hear your voice". I try to redirect him to no avail. The staff have told me he does well (whatever that means) & he is no trouble. I really don't want to visit for a while, but he would just call and ask when I'm coming over. He is unassertive, so won't ask the staff for help or to chat. Won't even ask for a glass of water! And the Covid restrictions haven't helped.


I repeatedly see on this forum how some caregivers' relatives are ungrateful & obstinate. My problem seems to be the opposite. Anyone else dealt with this? I haven't seen anything like this on this forum.

I was listening to Billy Joel yesterday. I just love this line in 'My Life': You can speak your mind but not on my time…

He may be telling everyone the same half empty glass story - I'm old, alone, going blind. The staff will acknowledge his feelings, be kind, then move on.

I get the same pity party speech from my Mum when she has run out of other news to tell. Then it's rerun time.

I do like the staff do, keep it short & sweet. Otherwise I fear this could become an attention forming habit.

Acknowledge (yes it's hard)
Be kind (pat hand)
Add a word or two (just have to make the best of it - or you are doing well with XYZ)
Change the scenery (go for a walk, move rooms).

Visit the bottom of the well - briefly - don't live there.
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Reply to Beatty
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nature73 Dec 21, 2020
Thanks for the helpful tips. I get so enmeshed in the moment I forget to follow thru. Will give it a go.
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I just said to DH tonight that I think I would faint dead away if even ONCE my 94 year old (next month) mother who lives in Memory Care would say she's FINE. Just pretend she's okay, even, that would be great. But no. She's so so so so sick and in so so so so much pain and she doesn't sleep at all, not even ONE MINUTE, at night, and on and on. The doctor who sees her weekly is an idiot and half nuts, so are all the other "stupid moron" residents she lives with, yada yada. She doesn't have Alzheimer's either, and is higher functioning than lots of the others, but make no mistake: she belongs there. And so do ALL residents of Memory Care who can't reside there without a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer's, etc.

We feel helpless with this kind of talk. We can't fix it. Yet it's all we hear about, over And over again day in and day out. My mother takes enough anti depressants to knock out a horse, but it doesn't change her talk about how horrrrrible she feels 24/7. It's like a broken record.

It's hard for us to deal with them, we back away and dread the interactions more and more.

It's hard for them because their world has shrunk down to a list of aches and pains and miseries. The dementia amps up the OCD and they dwell on the misery and make it worse than it actually is. I fact check my mother's chronic claims of sleeplessness and daily vomiting, and it's all untrue. If things were as bad as she portrayed them to be, we'd be at the hospital on a weekly basis. But this is HER reality, as she sees it in her diseased brain. All I can do is try to listen to her with as much sympathy as I can possibly muster. Some days are harder than others.

I hate dementia and what it's reduced our folks to. And they do too, I suspect, which is the worst part. Wishing you the best of luck with a difficult situation
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nature73 Dec 27, 2020
Thanks!
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Hello nature73, elders repeating themselves is a pretty common issue. Your LO may not have ALZ but he certainly has cognitive decline and short-term memory loss and this is what causes him to repeat. He can't help it, his brain is breaking. A common tactic is to redirect the conversation and basically ignore something he's said and you've already answered. Tell him family news (even if it's something you've already told him before he may not remember it). Get a book of jokes and tell him some or read a funny story off the internet, etc. If the staff is calling you on his behalf too often, you have every right to ask them to not do this so frequently. Life does suck when you can't see, can't remember and are dependent on others. I think you may find it helpful to watch some Teepa Snow videos on YouTube. She educates people on dementia and memory loss and she makes a tough topic as entertaining as it can be made. I know there are greeting cards where you can record your own personal message. Maybe record a personalized, reassuring one for your dad and have the staff play that for him instead when he wants to call you. Others will soon post their suggestions and I hope you find much help here. Let us know how it goes.
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nature73 Dec 21, 2020
I forgot about Teepa Snow! Her videos should be able to help. Also I like the idea of a joke book. I'll try that & maybe reading the newspaper. I think part of the problem is that I DO feel bad for him & know it's frightening to deal with all his problems of aging. I want to FIX it but I can't! But the broken record gets to me.
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Expect the conversation to be boring, that's what I tell my sister when mom goes to visit her. Same stuff, over and over. Just nod and smile and change the subject. Have a bunch of topics ready to talk about instead of being stuck on what he says over and over and over again (which is really tough to listen to!). Talk about the weather, about relatives, anything! I would make a list of things to tell him about, even if they are recycled. He probably won't remember you've told him.

Is he mobile? Take him for a walk (or probably not during covid times?). Put on some music.
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ArtistDaughter Dec 26, 2020
This is good advice. I do that for my mom and it really brightens her day to hear the "news", which I sometimes even make up, but always I retell things that she responded positively to before. She doesn't remember the last time I said it, so it's new to her. I also try to remember anything that happens that will make her laugh. I've known all my life what will make her angry, so I avoid those topics. She likes to hear about cats and dogs and children. She has no interests any longer because she can't follow what she reads and can't remember how to knit. Lack of things to do is what causes her sadness. The thing I've noticed about her assisted living is the caregivers have so many chores that they don't have time to just sit with her and talk, as the caregivers and I did at her home years ago. I asked that they talk with her more often and they started taking her into the kitchen while they worked and it made her happy to watch them and listen to their conversations. Then they had a covid case and she was quarantined for 2 weeks, but now I will remind them that she needs more companionship. She also, as nature73, will not ask anyone for what she needs because she does not know what she needs. And sometimes antidepressants work the opposite way than intended. Certainly the meds need to be looked into. Music almost always works to cheer people.
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Oh sounds like my mother. I try to always bring a treat or a meal she likes and redirect the conversation. Call attention to how well she is walking and how much better she is doing. Mom always forgets when I last visited or talked to her and I see her each week since she is in her own apartment. We talk everyday. It is what it is and will not change. Like with small children use distraction of any kind. Talk about what the rest of the family is doing. May be time to try a different anxiety medication.
I know he misses you, take a moment to pray before heading to his room. Just do the best you can.
I wish you peace.
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Are there activities in Memory Care that your father may be interested in? You mentioned his eyes aren't good, would he be interested in audible books or listening to NPR perhaps? You can always ask, "What can I do to help?"
What did your father used to enjoy doing before MC? My dad is 88yo and very high functioning and has great cognitive skills but has been a lifelong reader his entire life. If my dad couldn't read, he's not the type to find bingo or or art enjoyable, (no offense to anyone that would). I would bring books that I could read to him or bring someone (a friend of his or mine) to visit.

I am a private caregiver, I make a point to bring a little something special for my clients. My husband is retired, he loves to cook & bake (lucky me) my clients some of their favorite dishes. I can appreciate where you are coming from, even with activities, I've heard the same thing too many times.

Lastly, maybe you could talk with the staff about your talking with his Dr about a medication change. Sometimes it's as simple as that. Good luck to you!
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Rather than trying to counter or divert from your dad's complaints, try acknowledging the things he is distressed about and expressing empathy for his feelings. You might say, "Yes, you are all alone here, That must feel very sad." or " Being constipated is uncomfortable and must make you miserable. Maybe he doctor can prescribe some medicine (like senna) to help out.

This will not alleviate all of his sadness or discomfort, but it will help.him to feel heard and that can be comforting in itself.
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"He asks me periodically how old he is, and how I'm related to him.." This sounds like more than a short-term memory problem. Knowing that you are his child is long-term memory. If he can't remember that, it seems to me that he has dementia of some kind.
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Dear nature73, the purpose of these forums is to support one another and brain-storm together so we can all do better for our elders so we feel better about ourselves. Not everyone posting seems to get that. So I'm going to offer what I do when I have to visit my narcissistic and emotionally abusive father: I have a bluetooth ear-thingy - not expensive, got it at Walmart, white cord with earplugs for the ears and a control thing on one end near the right ear. I put something pleasant on YouTube on my phone and put one ear thing in (cover with my hair) so I have that sound to calm me and help me, and he never knows the difference. With the other ear I can hear him and respond like normal, except with my ear thing, it's much less taxing on me. I put on the sound of thunder and rain, or music, or a talk show. Do whatever works. Be proud that you are trying, and remember you DO NOT have to just grit it out/suck it up or just magically feel different because you've been scolded, like some here have suggested or seem to think works. Sending you a hug.
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nature73 Dec 27, 2020
Thank-you!
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When my dad started to repeat himself I would get annoyed until I thought this is something that is happening to him, not me. So, I just would give the same answer even if it was less than a few minutes ago, For me and my sanity it was better to stay lighthearted because I knew one day it would be over and I would miss him. Dig deep.
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