Changes in mood
My mother had always enjoyed baking. She used to bring us cakes every Friday night. But since she came to live with us, we had had some unpleasant surprises and she was starting to get more and more frustrated at things not going right. She was very upset and eventually said that she had gone off baking. My daughter found a solution though. She told my mother that she wanted to learn how to bake. It was agreed that my daughter would do the work and my mother, as the “expert”, would supervise.
Many of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease involve losses - loss of co-ordination, memory, independence, the ability to communicate and control over one’s own life. People with dementia are constantly faced with the evidence of these losses. As the disease progresses, they become gradually less and less able to carry out routine activities such as talking to people, getting dressed and eating. They become increasingly dependent on others. This can all be extremely frustrating. You may also sometimes feel frustrated when your efforts to help fail or are badly accepted and when you cannot understand or be understood by the person you are caring for. However, your knowledge and understanding of what can be frustrating for the person with dementia can be useful in helping prevent such situations from arising.
How to cope with frustration
You might find that humour relieves some of the tension in an awkward situation. It might be possible to prevent the person with dementia from becoming frustrated by drawing their attention to the funny side of the situation (which is not the same thing as laughing at the person).
How to prevent frustration
Loss of skills and dependence on others can lead not only to frustration but also to the loss of a sense of dignity and self-worth and eventually to a state of helplessness. Someone with dementia will probably feel less frustrated and better about themselves the more they are able to do alone. Encourage the person to try to accomplish something on their own, offering some assistance if needed and making sure that there is a calm, relaxed atmosphere. If the person has difficulty opening a packet of biscuits or cakes, for example, you might think that it is kinder or quicker to do it for them. However, this would be one less task that the person was able to do and possibly another cause of frustration. It would be better perhaps to choose packets in the future which are easier to open, and then give them the time to do it. Another solution might be to explain or show how things could be done in a different way. Avoid humiliation in front of other people and make sure that difficult tasks do not need doing if you have company. By keeping the person with dementia active, you might also help ward off boredom. Whenever possible you could try to give the person a choice between two or three alternatives - they will probably be able to manage limited choices. This may help to avoid certain potentially frustrating situations and give the person the feeling of having some control over their own life.
Last Updated: Thursday 06 August 2009