Meet Maria, Allowing the patient with Alzheimer's to be boss

Currently, I am serving as a live-in caregiver for a 77 year-old woman with moderate stage Alzheimer's Disease.  I have been on this case for almost a year now.  I will talk a little about the background of this case first, and in later entries will talk about what is happening today.


Taking care of an elderly client with Alzheimer's can be quite challenging.  I had a case that required a 24-hour caregiver.  This client, who had been independent all her life, never had a need for caregiving assistance. 


She was very much alert, but at times (primarily in the mornings) she would become confused.  There were times when she would fix coffee and she would put cat food in the machine in lieu of coffee grounds.  When I pointed it out to her she would become irate saying, "There's nothing wrong with me, and I don't need anyone here to take care of me, so get out!"  She made that abundantly clear every time I would correct her about something she was doing wrong.  She was embarrassed and because of that she would barely speak to me for the rest of the day.  Having me there was a daily reminder to her that something might be wrong with her and she wasn't happy about that at all. 


She wouldn't want me cooking or cleaning.  Whenever I would go in her cabinets to fix her something to eat, hoping that she would eat, she would become infuriated.  She always wanted to know why I was up in her cabinets.  I knew this case was going to be challenging. 


I surely understood why she felt this way.  Here she was with a stranger in her house, trying to take care of her, while she felt she didn’t need anyone. 


At this point I knew I had to change my approach.  So I decided not to go up in her cabinets when it was time to cook.  I would first sit down with her in the mornings for about an hour and just talk to her about the things she enjoyed like dancing and shopping.  Then I would ask her about the pictures of her family that she had displayed in her living room.  She enjoyed showing them to me and talking about her family.  After using this approach for about two weeks every morning before breakfast, she became more and more comfortable with me in her house. When it was time to prepare her meals, I wouldn't go into her cabinets like before.  I would ask her where everything was, like her pots and pans, even though

I already knew.  I wanted her to know that just because she had a caregiver in her home, it was still her home, and she was in charge and that I was not trying to impose on her and take over. 

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