In A Pickle  

Care aides wear many hats while helping those with Alzheimer's disease

Dealing with dementia

“Get away from me or I’ll scream”, she bellowed.

I felt like a lowlife. The problem started minutes earlier when Rose announced she was going for a walk alone. I convinced her to wear a jacket and then followed her from a distance. Rose had home care 24/7 because of her advanced dementia.

Her community’s gated entrance was under repair, and so she wandered towards the busy road. She stopped a few times, glaring at me. At one point, Rose yelled, asking if I was following her.

A young couple stopped and stared. Embarrassed, I said Bill was coming over for lunch, to which she replied, “After my walk, I’ll eat, but you go home and if you keep following me, I will scream. Is that what you want?” I said no and stood there phoning my employer while she marched ahead.

The plan was to send someone to redirect Rose with a car ride. While waiting for my supervisor, I followed Rose down the sidewalk. She hid behind a power pole, so I ducked into the bushes. Rose booked it through an alley. Once again, she hid behind another power pole, so I concealed myself with the power pole she just finished using. It was a bizarre game of cat and mouse.

In her eyes, I was a stalker, but I played multiple roles as a bodyguard, care aide and sleuth. Secretly, I hoped someone watching would call the police, but that didn’t happen.

I maintained communication with the office, ensuring they were aware of our location. Rose darted down another alley and I ran to keep up and found her peeking around a tree. I asked her if she saw my dog run past and she said, “No, and are you looking for something besides a dog?”

I replied I was looking for her, too. With that, Rose went on a rant, accusing us of watching her every move and suggesting they might’ve bugged her clothes to track her.

She inquired about a loud conversation nearby. I told her it was a radio station.

"Aha!" exclaimed Rose. "I knew it. You're with the CIA and are tailing me!”

I clarified I was a care aide, not CSIS or CIA, and I was there to assist her. She protested she didn’t need help. I further explained the voices she heard were not from walkie talkies, but it was of a disc jockey. Nevertheless, she didn't trust me and said, "They're planning to murder me and steal my money, but I've already left my wealth to (in her mind only), my lover, Bill."

In reality, her love interest was only allowed to talk to her on the phone. I comforted her, assuring everything was alright.

We walked side by side as I called the secretary to say where we were. Rose became irate, saying we were all part of a conspiracy.

Not a moment too soon, my supervisor pulled up and hopped out of her car, offering Rose a ride home. Rose grinned at Cheryl and told me to buzz off.

A few weeks later, Rose kicked me out of her house late at night. After requesting something from the kitchen, I swiftly grabbed a house key and my coat before leaving. I spent the next half hour flattening myself up against the exterior walls to avoid setting off the motion detector lights.

Rose heard the door unlatch and locked it again. Finally, she stopped making the rounds. So I unlocked the door and, with a knock, asked if we could have coffee together as I hadn’t seen her in ages. Delighted, Rose invited me in, but started arguing with someone only she could see.

Her behaviour worsened with time because of the progression of the disease. I couldn’t cope with Rose’s conduct any longer and so I got a new client. Three years later, I felt sad when I read her obituary.

People with dementia behave differently because of changes in their brains. It is essential to stay calm and patient, while avoiding arguing about their reality, such as when they have visual hallucinations and saying “I didn’t see that” and move on.

It is important to acknowledge their feelings and offer comfort with a gentle touch, if it’s safe to do so, all the while stating you’re there to protect them.

Check the environment for noises, shadows or objects that could trigger fearful reactions and remove them if possible. It will make both your lives more peaceful, at least until the next episode.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Doreen Zyderveld-Hagel writes about the humour in every-day life, and gets much of her inspiration from the late Erma Bombeck’s writing style. 

Doreen also has a serious side, shares her views on current events, human-interest stories and sometimes the downright bizarre. 

She can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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