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Staff says he’s doing well and participating in some activities. He’s physically ok. He doesn’t have a phone but can use the desk phone reasonably. His negative calls are very hurtful and wants to keep talking so that I have to make excuses to hang up. Should I not answer his calls or just hope for a somewhat normal call eventually?

Practice changing the subject every time he days something negative. If needed, do something like ring a little bell and say you have to go check on the oven now. But before you do that, try the following, and keep the little bell for after you intentionally cheer him up ;

Try to guide the conversation to PAST HAPPY MEMORIES.

It works amazingly well.
I used to take care of an elderly lady that nobody could stand being around, they said she was horrible and negative.

I thought about what things must feel like to her, from her point of view. She lost her home, her garden, her neighbors, her friends, her youth, her independence etc.

Literally, everything that made her happy was gone. Now everyone was treating her like a burden or a piece of luggage. It's sad getting old and losing everything.

I realised that everything "happy" was in the past for this person. So I asked questions about happy occasions and adventures etc in her past. She told me wonderful stories about when she was young. It was fascinating and cheerful. Her mood was so bright and happy when we were together. She was glowing.

Nobody understood why I was happy taking care of her instead of mad about it. She was a different person when you asked her about happy times. Try it. Sometimes they remember lots of things from years ago. Vacations, hobbies, friends, school etc. Dating or friends or activities, travel, dances in the old days etc. Practice guiding the conversation.

Maybe get him some old movies or music from a time period that he used to love. I hope you find patience and get rest so you can feel recharged. You sound worn out. Blessings to you both. Treat him the way you hope someone treats you someday. Lots of love and understanding. Put yourself in their shoes. They lost everything. Remind them of happier times. It helps. 💝💝💝
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haileybug Aug 26, 2020
Great advice.
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My mother is a wonderful and lovely woman to care givers and other nieces and nephews; she reserves all her angst and ugliness for ME. No matter WHAT I talk about, she's ugly and miserable and complaining all the time. While the idea to talk about happy times and get your LO reminiscing is fantastic, it's more realistic for an outsider to be able to accomplish than a close loved one; they always act a whole lot better for outsiders than they do for US! That's been my experience, anyhow.

What you're going through here is such a common problem for so many of us with loved ones in Memory Care ALFs. Every night when I get ready to call my mother I get a stomach ache. She will always say something horrible and miserable, I know that for a fact, and so I dread the calls. My DH and I go for a window visit on Sunday's which is good when there's a care giver in the room with her. Then she's showtiming and playing to the audience. Otherwise, she's complaining and mean, but less so when my DH is around. Again, her angst is reserved for ME.

My suggestion is to get your husband or your wife on the phone with you when you take these calls. Having a buffer-person between you will sometimes lessen the blows. They normally try to appear nicer when they know someone else is listening or within earshot. If that's not the case with your loved one, then by all means, let him know you will be saying Goodnight when the call becomes too toxic. I do that with my mother, and tell her Goodnight Mom, I'll speak to you at another time when you are in a better mood. I think that hoping for a normal call eventually is a high hope, when dementia is at play, but who knows? Every day tends to be different with this miserable affliction, so maybe one day you'll be surprised. In the meanwhile, look after yourself too, so you don't develop ulcers.

Good luck!
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InFamilyService Aug 27, 2020
Oh my dear God, you have written my story with my mom. Often when she starts complaining(nice word for what she gives me) I put my phone down on the bed. Let her carry on and then say I have to talk to you later, I'm hanging up now.
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Hoping isn't going to solve your problem. You have been listening to him for too long now, and he expects you to listen to him. You created this over time, and it's going to take some time to undo it.

First try redirecting the conversation toward something good like "LO, have you been outside today and enjoyed the beautiful weather?" or "LO, I want to read you a poem by XYZ or Bible verse (if religious), and isn't that a beautiful sentiment?" If you get nothing in return but negativity, simply say "Someone is at my door and I'll call you when you're feeling better" and then hang up.

Since your LO is in memory care, his brain is broken enough that you can do little to change his behavior. Protect yourself from negativity. You do not have to listen to it. And you don't have to feel guilty about hanging up abruptly using a lie. It's the only way to stay sane sometimes.
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psuskind1 Aug 27, 2020
Dear NY
I’m unable to redirect him. I do listen to his complaints and then get off the phone ASAP. Nurses and staff say he’s doing well. I did get some good advice from you answer. Thanks
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My bro, after entry into Assisted Living, said that the main "activities" they all enjoyed was complaining. About food, about caregivers, about decor, about everything. And that can surely happen. I think call, then say after the complaints start that you are "sorry it is such a bad day", and you are going to "go now, will call back and hope he is feeling better". This is kind of like training. It make "take" and it may not. Good luck. You do mention your LO is in memory care. If he would not miss the calls, doesn't realize when the calls are coming, then certainly cut them down.
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Isthisrealyreal Aug 23, 2020
😀
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Keep a small noisy timer near your phone. When he calls set it for 4 minutes or however long you think you can handle. When you answer, tell him you have something in the oven and will have to go when the alarm goes off. I used to do this with my former Negative Nellie MIL.

Or just say good bye when he starts to complain.
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Please redirect the conversations. When they veer into hate-filled or complaining speech, redirect by saying "I'll look into this" then change the subject to something more pleasant. Please make sure to call the facility to discuss the complaints - which may be valid or may be a sign that he has anxiety or frustration that need to be dealt with.
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Babs75 Aug 27, 2020
lol... I have to redirect all the time. I'd go crazy if I didn't
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You can keep calling but you can also hang up when he gets nasty. You should tell him why you are hanging up the phone, he may be able to figure out that his ugliness with you results in you hanging up, if not you are not being beat into the ground with his ugliness.
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Try asking questions about favorite colors, music, movies, actors, happy family memories, favorite food, President, vacation spot if can go anywhere in the world and why. There are so many questions about favorite things to ask about. Take notes about the answers that produced a hearty laugh and direct to those times when negativity sets back in.
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Ask staff to limit his calls. If he is calling daily cut to every other day, then maybe 1 time a week.
You can not expect your dad to change. His mind is broken and he does not know how to change.
You can tell him, when he starts talking in a way you do not like, that you have to go to work and will have to hang up. Once you say you have to go hang up the phone. If he calls right back do not answer the phone.
Little side note though you will miss the calls when he gets to a point when he does not remember your number or does not remember how to use the phone or worse when he no longer remembers you.
Hang in there
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psuskind1 Aug 27, 2020
Thank you for your response. I know this to be true.
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I would think he has to ask staff to use the desk phone. If so, ask them not to allow it. They can make up an excuse. Or only allowed one call a day would be a good one. If you have caller ID then ignore the call. You could try and say "Dad, you are being abusive so I am hanging up now" and hang up. With Dementia this may not work. You need to set boundries for you. This is a hard desease to deal with. He is not "him" any more. He has his little world that he now lives in. Good or bad its his reality now. His brain is slowly dying.
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