Changes in mood
Over the last year, my mother has found it very hard to get herself organised to do things. She tends to just sit in her chair most of the day if left to herself. But I’ve found that she’ll enjoy doing things like sorting out the sewing box as long as I get her started.
Someone with dementia might sometimes just sit in a chair or stay, for a long period of time, not wanting to do anything. They might stop talking to people and become withdrawn, perhaps as a consequence of their inability to communicate. Although such behaviour is unlikely to actually cause you a problem, you may feel uneasy about it and worry about the person’s wellbeing. They may look unhappy or seem to have lost their zest for life. The cause for such behaviour is unknown. Nevertheless, with patience and perseverance, you might be able to gradually encourage the person to do something and to take an interest in what is going on. On the other hand, you might sometimes have to resign yourself to the fact that they really prefer to be left alone.
How to cope with apathy
Don’t force the person with dementia to do something if it is clear that they object
It might not always be possible to persuade the person with dementia to do something they do not want to do. In such cases, it is best not to insist, as the upset you cause may well outweigh the possible benefits of the activity.
Encourage activities that they can manage and which exercise both mind and body
The person with dementia might have withdrawn as a way to cope when things get too complicated. It is therefore important to suggest activities that they can manage. Try to find activities which involve the person moving about. For example, you could ask them to help you to do something such as dusting or watering plants. Once they have started moving about, they might start to feel a little more cheerful and lively. You will often find that it is just a matter of suggesting something and then getting the person started. (Please see chapter on recreation, activities and exercise for more information on activities.)
Try to concentrate on what has been achieved and don’t insist on continuing
Try to concentrate on the positive, e.g. congratulate the person for what they have done rather than criticise them for having stopped. If there is too much pressure to continue, the next time you suggest doing something, the person might be more inclined to refuse.
Last Updated: Thursday 06 August 2009