Hi, love the blog, it’s very humanizing and insightful. Do you have any advice on how to deal with a relative who gets really angry at caregivers? She yells, and I think even tries to fire them. I’m afraid I’m a little out of the loop so I don’t know exactly what about them makes her so angry, but any general advice you may have would be really helpful.

Thank you! I feel like I’d need to know more about this situation, but usually anger like this comes from a feeling and fear of lack of control. She probably feels like she’s not in control of any aspect of her life, so, as most people would do, she’s freaking out. Is there a way we can give her back some control? Even tiny things, like letting her wash her face in the shower instead of having them do it. And, ensure that there is nothing medical going on, like a recurring urinary tract infection, of course.

You’d better learn how to beg for forgiveness instead of asking for permission

So many family caregivers will say to me, “But mom/dad/aunt/brother/spouse will not let me…”

  • Take the car
  • Move them into a care community
  • Pay the bills for them
  • Take over the healthcare Power of Attorney
  • Send caregivers to the house
  • Do the grocery shopping
  • Make any decisions for them
  • Bring them to the doctor

What I always tell these caregivers is, “Your loved one is never going to wake up one morning and suddenly be agreeable about these things.”

When your loved ones have dementia and can no longer make healthy decisions for themselves, it is no longer up to them what happens.

This may sound harsh, but think of it this way: would you want your loved one with dementia driving down the highway alone? No, probably not.

If that’s the case, why are you letting the car stay in the driveway? Why are you keeping the stove plugged in? Why are they at home by themselves most of the day? The answer is this: someone needs to take over their decision-making. And that person is you.

This is a “don’t ask for permission, beg for forgiveness” situation.

If you’re waiting for permission to do something regarding your loved one’s care, you’re going to be waiting forever.

Your loved one is never going to say, “You know what, I woke up this morning and decided to let you take over the bills, plan my day, and move me into a care community.” It’s just never going to happen. People living with dementia do not have the ability to plan ahead using logic and good judgment.

The hard truth is this: you need to be their decision-maker. When he or she can no longer make safe choices, you need to make those safe choices on their behalf. (And this doesn’t involve asking first!)

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Andrea Flack-Wetherald is the founder of &Beyond, an applied-improv leadership development consulting and coaching firm based in Pittsburgh, PA. Her passion is to use the foundations of improv, and the evidence-based approaches found in The Transtheoretical Model (TTM) for creating lasting change to create more joy, positivity and productivity in work environments. She does this through highly engaging leadership trainings, confrontation trainings and coaching programs designed to help clients advance in their careers.

Andrea received her degree in Social Work from Bluffton University, and passed the State of Ohio CSWMFT Board’s LSW exam in 2010. She gained experience and training in improvisation as a theater art form at The Steel City Improv Theater, Unplanned Comedy and Arcade Comedy Theater along with festival and performance experience in Pittsburgh, New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles. She lives in Pittsburgh’s East End with her husband Kyle and their two sweet children.​

Tune in to episode 3 of my podcast here or anywhere you listen to podcasts!

Do people living with schizophrenia have an increased risk of getting dementia? How big of an impact does depression have on dementia, and vice-versa? What is trauma-informed care?

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>> Get the Dementia By Day Caregiver Journal

To answer these questions and much more, I bring in my long-time friend and mental health expert, Caitlynn.

Caitlynn has a Master’s in Clinical Psychology and lives in Oregon. You can follow her on Instagram at instagram.com/therapylyfe

How to call someone who isn’t alive anymore

This post is inspired by a question I received the other day on my Facebook page about my podcast. (So many mediums to find me!) Anyway, this reader asked about her mother, who constantly wants to visit and call her own parents. My reader is distraught by how frustrated her mother is—“Why don’t they ever visit or call me?”—and doesn’t know what to tell her. I completely understand, and I have a solution based on something I actually did years ago.

About three years ago, I was working at a dementia care community and sitting in my office when one of my residents approached. “Hey hun,” Renata started. “Can you help me with something?”

“Of course,” I smiled. “What’s up?”

“Well,” Renata paused. “I…haven’t heard from my son in a while…do you think I could use your phone to call him?”

Damn it, I thought. Renata’s son had died a couple years earlier. Certainly, I did not want to remind her of this awful fact, but how could I help her? She was asking me a very direct question with a very obvious solution. I thought quickly and responded, “Sure!”

I picked up my office phone and dialed my cell phone’s number. I waited until it rang a few times and heard the start of my voicemail, “Hi, you’ve reached Rachael Wonderlin…” and turned to Renata. “It’s going to voicemail,” I said. “Would you like to leave him a message?”

“Oh yes,” she said, accepting the phone. “Hi Lenny, it’s your mother…I hope you’re doing well, just wanted to check in with you. Please call me back soon and let me know how you’re feeling.”

She hung up and handed the phone back to me. “Thanks, hun,” she said, sighing lightly. “I feel a little bit better.”

Renata never asked about calling her son again. Instead of solving the FACTUAL problem—whether or not she could actually reach this man—I solved the emotional one.

This is how you solve a dementia-related “problem” like this: focus on the emotional problem, not the physical, tangible one. Use the tangible things around you to help the person feel better, like a phone call. Never, ever use these tangible things to convince that person that their loved ones have passed away. Instead, find ways to make them feel like they’ve done what they set out to do.

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(1/?) How do I get my mom to stop being emotionally invested in my abusive, demented grandmother? Please don’t misunderstand—I know fully well that dementia is a disease, and that my grandmother isn’t trying to be abusive. But it’s completely ruining the lives of everyone in our household. I’m afraid that it will kill my mom. My mom has plenty of problems of her own—a high-stress job, being the main provider of the family, recovering from alcoholism, a history of mental illness, and a myriad of

Hi, I saw the rest of your question, but will just publish this first part for other readers. Yes. She needs emotional help. I recommend therapy, a support group, reading my book, the journal I just made, literally anything for her education. This isn’t really about dementia, it’s about your mom’s mental health.

Why is “no” the default answer?

When you work in dementia care, you become accustomed to hearing the word, “no.”

“No, I don’t want a shower.”

“No, thanks, I don’t want to go.”

“No, I already took my pills.”

“No, I don’t want to do any crafts.”

Sound familiar? While there are some people out there who say no just to be contrary, most people living with dementia who say “no” do it because they don’t really understand the question or what you need from them.

The best example of this is a female resident I had at one of my communities. Megan was really friendly and loved going on outings, but if you asked her if she wanted to join you, she’d say no. “Hey Megan!” the staff would say. “Do you want to go get ice cream with everyone?” Megan would pause, think for a second, and say, “No, thanks, I’ll stay here.” I came to realize that she didn’t really understand what was being asked of her: instead of thinking about the ice cream, she got overwhelmed at the idea of “going anywhere” and left it at that.

When Megan was told to, “Come with me,” or, “Can you help me?” she would join, no matter what it was. I began offering my hand, telling Megan to come with me, and leading her to the bus for outings. When she asked, “Where are we going?” I’d tell her that we were getting ice cream. She’d be thrilled.

Here’s what I recommend: avoid or adjust what you’re asking. Asking someone with dementia if they “want” to do something is a sure-fire way to hear “nope!” 

Instead, say, “Come with me,” or ask that person “for help” with a task.