My husband is in the early stages of alzheimers and resents me 'taking control' of his life if I suggest something that is contrary to his idea of how to do something. I back off and give him space but then I am accused of not being interested in helping him. This and other issues has made me so depressed and I am the one getting counseling to learn to adapt, but it is getting harder. Any suggestions?

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Is your husband aware that he has ALZ? I wonder if it would help if you discussed this issue with him when he is at his most lucid and in a good mood. "I want to give you as much help as you need when something is a little hard for you, but I also don't want to run your life. Sometimes it is hard for me to know just how much help you'd like. Can you help me with that?" Even if he "gets it" when you discuss it, he may not remember in the moment. Remind him gently. "Oh, I see I was trying to help when you don't need it. Sorry." "I'll be happy to help you now. Thank you for reminding me."

The early stage can be particularly frustrating for the caregiver. This is all new to you and you are not used to it. And the lack of logic is not yet severe enough or constant enough to keep you focused on it. So you go along as if things are almost normal and then, wham, out of the blue something really wacko comes up. No wonder we don't always respond appropriately!

The best you can do, I think, is reassure him that you want to help him and also don't want to take over for him, and to apologize when you get it "wrong."

My husband had Lewy Body Dementia, and we called it Lewy. (We both got mad at Lewy from time to time.) I could say, "Yes, of course you can carry a food tray. You've done it for decades! But we can't trust what ol' Lewy is going to do today, so how about I carry your tray and you bring the newspaper?" I always wanted to assure him that his impairments were not his fault.

I also often said something like, "You have an excellent brain, dear. You have an impressive education and you were a successful engineer. That excellent brain just isn't working at full capacity right now, so I'll help you for now." When we went to a new appointment he would cheerfully announce, "Jeanne comes with me. She's my memory."

It is a very fine line balancing between helping and taking over. Don't feel bad if you don't always get it right.

I am so very glad to hear you are getting counseling. This is huge change in the relationship and in your role.
Helpful Answer (19)

The hardest lesson I had to learn while dealing with my parents (Dad has vascular dementia, Mom has Alzheimer's) was to NOT take it personally. Those of us with existing relationships (whether spouse or offspring) need to rewire a lot of that early and lifetime programming! And that's incredibly difficult, because my parents are changing while I remain the same. In other words, it's hard to keep up, and your strategy needs to keep changing. At some point, when it got too much for me to internalize, I chose to surrender. Now, when Mom says or implies "It's all your fault!", I simply agree. "Yes, it's all my fault, Mom. Everything is my fault." Paradoxically, this makes her laugh, as if she has "won" the argument. It doesn't make any sense, does it? Yet it works. I love @JeanneGibbs advice to give it a name and blame the name - and I'm saying the same thing. Whatever works! Keeping a sense of humour is usually what works best.
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I found that you can't deal face-on with illogical thinking or lack of reasoning. What to do about it depends on what it is. If they think they need to tear down a wall to see why a lamp isn't coming on, of course, you can't let them do that. Maybe getting a light bulb and letting them change it would make them feel they are still in charge of it. Many things you can work along beside them like you're helping.

Other things are dangerous and have to be discouraged in some way. Since he is in the early stages, you probably haven't run across these things yet. You can take them as they come.

He'll probably have a lot of frustration as he forgets how to do things. He may take those things out on you. What is difficult to figure out is how much to give to make him feel better, since it can introduce a lot of stress into your life.

Maybe if you'll give an example of what he is doing, people will grasp what stage he's in and give some good advice. If you get a change, google Teepa Snow and look for the You Tube videos that are available. You could find that many will help you a lot as you go through this with your husband. The people she talks about are at a more advanced stage of dementia, but her concepts are very good.
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You can't stop a train by standing in front of it. You have to run alongside and jump on board.

Rather than back off when your husband wants to do something his way, be his assistant in doing it his way so that you can gently steer the activity back to doing it a rational, effective way.

With teeth and denture cleaning, for example, I found myself channelling my Texan psychotherapist friend with my whoops of "there you go! That's the way!" You don't have to go that far, but praise and encouragement will be cheering for him when everyday tasks have become depressingly hard to accomplish.
Helpful Answer (8)

One of the most difficult, but most important lessons I have learned with a disabled husband and a 94 year old mother with dementia is to take life one day at a time, one step at a time. If I spend too much energy looking at the "big picture", it proves to be very stressful and counterproductive. My husband's mind and thought process is good, but his body has betrayed him, the first time with a stroke in 2003 and now with an inability to walk or take care of himself, the reason for which is a mystery to the 5 neurologists we've seen. Both he and my mom can be demanding and downright nasty, and I am the target. My way of coping is reading, doing crafts and spending time with my grandsons. "Me" time is of the utmost importance. I have developed a very thick "hide", but I don't let hubby walk all over me. As an example, he issued an order this morning, and when I told him I'd get to it when I could, he got nasty. A half-hour later, I said "Now, if you still want me to do it, I will. But I resent being issued orders and then yelled at. Ask me in a nice way and it will get done." Kind of like speaking to a child, but sometimes that's what you have to do. God bless!
Helpful Answer (8)

Let him do what he can. If he always balanced the checkbook and paid bills get a "dummy" set of checks and old bills and let him write the checks and pay the bills.
If he helped with the household chores let him fold the laundry, put things away. Even if you have to do it again.
As the dementia progresses he will do fewer and fewer things and what he can do will become more basic. Still let him do what he can. Unless it comes to safety either his or the family's.
I know it is frustrating but I just imagine how frustrating it must be for someone like my husband who was so used to doing everything around the house that when he could no longer do things he never admitted it but just said..I'll do it when I feel stronger.
As he is no longer able to do the things he could help him transition and he will find other things to do.
It helped my frustration with some things when I changed "won't to can't" in my head. When I would get frustrated when he WOULDN'T do something until I realized he COULDN'T do it. It's not that he wouldn't get to the bathroom in time but he couldn't get to the bathroom because he did not recognize the cues his body was giving him.
Each phase brings a different set of frustrations but with each phase it does clear some up. You say you are getting counseling but are you also going to a Support Group? It does help. Each person in a support group learns from another. Some have been in your spot and you can get "tricks of the trade" to help you through. And some can learn from you as to what you have found helps. Everyone has something to contribute and learn.
Approach this with an open mind and look for different ways to solve problems. It does help if you can "think outside the box" because with dementia..they think out side the box all the time.
Helpful Answer (8)

It's a long road ahead, and for now I can see the humor in some of the fantastical occurrences around our house. Hubby shouldn't climb ladders, so when a tree needed to be pruned a bit, his "obvious" solution was to cut it down. I noticed a 7' hole in the landscaping and a 2' high stump in place of a beautiful evergreen and asked hubby if he happened to notice a beaver at work on our trees. He was proud to relate he used an axe to cut down the too tall tree, saving us a visit from the tree man, and fortunately, a visit to the ER. Some days it's difficult to run along side a runaway train. We are in the early stages of dementia and thinking is replaced by frenzied doing; dementia can't capture him if he just keeps moving! His 5 adult children choose not to see him, preferring to remember dad healthy. Supportive friends and neighbors, church members, good doctors, support groups and exercising are my lifelines to keeping my sanity and sense of humor intact. Keep reaching out, and above all, take care of yourself. Easier said than done as we move forward.
Helpful Answer (7)

In the early days with my husband's dementia I often found it helpful to let him have control by allowing him to decide between two possibilities saying such things as, "Should we do it this way or that?"

"Let's get the bills paid today do you want to write the checks and I'll record what we pay?" Doing it just before a football game gave him incentive to ask me to do the task for him so he could watch the game. I gave him control and the finances were not screwed up.

"Can you help put the laundry away? I'll do mine while you do yours."
If he forgot how to fold something, I'd fold one of his and hand it to him. He remembered where his clothes were for a long time.

He had always filled the dishwasher - so we would clean up after supper together.

Be creative - sometimes the choices offered are one easy and one somewhat obnoxious so the outcome was more predictable while he still felt some sense of control.
Helpful Answer (6)

When a loved one passes away it's a clear and final loss. But with these progressive memory disorders, we lose them bit by bit. And while this process is heartbreaking, we can't really go into mourning because the person still is alive, needs our help and wouldn't understand our sadness. It's tough and you're right to take advantage of counseling. Good luck and God bless.
Helpful Answer (5)

DownSouth, I am glad to hear you've given up on the "minor irritations." We do need to learn to pick our battles.

Apparently your mother wants to get the paper earlier than you want her to. Maybe this is to keep her routine as normal as possible. Maybe it is because reading the paper is something she looks forward to and she "can't wait" like a kid at Christmas. Maybe it is totally irrational. And now, maybe, it has become a power struggle.

This might be the battle you pick. I don't know. But is a compromise possible? Want you are concerned about is her safety. What if you explained that, and took her to pick out a reflective vest, like joggers and bike riders wear when they are out in the dark? "Mom, I'm not worried that you can't get the paper on your own. I'm worried about drivers who aren't paying attention. Let's get you the proper clothing to make sure the drivers can see you when you get the paper."

Another option would be to have the paper delivered to the doorstep. Is that a possibility?

On some of the high-conflict issues, coming up with ways to minimize the risk may be the best we can do.

As for explaining what her medical impairments are, that seems like a lost cause. It was very comforting and useful to my husband to understand what was going on, that it wasn't his fault, and that I'd help him compensate for his impairments. With my mother that approach would be totally counter-productive. We have never used the D word with her. It is a very individual decision. You've tried explaining it to your mother. That doesn't help. Give that approach up.
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