Saturday, December 17, 2011


Our relative is back at home and adjusting to life in her clean, uncluttered house. We got multiple cryptic texts and emails from the family members who were with her when she arrived very late last night and are spending the weekend introducing her to all the changes we made. There were no tantrums, no grief, hysteria, or rage. Such responses are typical; her reaction was mild. She was delighted with new decorative touches, entranced by the old family photo album I'd left opened on a sofa for her, and very pleased to see clean, paper-free floors for the first time in more than a decade. But she was also horrified that certain things (numbering in the millions, if I include every scrap of paper we tossed) had disappeared or were moved or consolidated.

She's lost in her own house, in other words. It's hardly a good situation for a person with dementia; they thrive on routine and familiarity. We did our best to leave things in their original places, but almost everything was such a catastrophic mess that it usually wasn't possible. Today, she's been alternating between gratitude at everyone's efforts and profound irritation that we mucked up her "systems."

But it's still a good start; it's going better than we hoped. I suspect she will continue to have shifting moods of anger and annoyance along with the graciousness and gratitude that are intrinsic to her personality. I predict that her new toaster oven is going to become the bane of her existence even though it was the simplest I could find. Almost any kind of technology is beyond her now.

She either doesn't realize the copier is gone or she's keeping mum on the subject.

Her new daily caregiver appeared to introduce herself this morning, too. She's a college student who nevertheless has a lot of experience caring for seniors with dementia. That meeting also went better than expected, too, perhaps because our relative hasn't yet realized that this young stranger will be coming every day to look after her (and keep the house free of new clutter).

We all wish we could afford to hire caregivers round the clock instead a few hours a day. She shouldn't be left on her own in that house, although that's all she wants. It's clear that her dementia is worsening, and not only because she disoriented by her clean house.


  1. That is indeed an optimal reaction by her! All of the various tactics you used to make her feel "at home" again are exactly what the textbook ideal includes.

    The toaster oven use might already be a "rearview" window issue, like driving often is. I think your approach is reasonable. The companion can provide her with daily reminders on its use, to, which might - or might not - reinforce her learning about it.

    Great news on the copier! She might actually be relieved, and if she's busy putting new routines into place for herself, could actually already be forgetting its importance.

    What a wonderful gift you've given her!

  2. Wonderful start. You can't ask for more and since many people with dementia have better memories of many years ago than recent. The break of getting her out of the house may have helped her forget the years of clutter and it may actually be more familiar to the this way.

    Tell the caregiver to offer to take papers home to copy for her and then forget them until she forgets.

    Congratulations on a job well done.

  3. I am relieved for you and for her.


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