Alzheimer's disease · Behavior · Caregiver · Caregiving · Dogs

Stress, part 2 / August 9, 2006

I had read about memory loss, confusion and dysphasia, but I was not prepared for the behavioral changes that often come with Alzheimer’s. I don’t know if they are actually the second most stressful part of living with my mother–-after finances–-but they are the most likely triggers of my anger.

Today, for example, I had an appointment at the vet’s for one of my dogs. She is thirteen years old and increasingly disabled by arthritis, so I take her in regularly to have her checked and given an Adequan shot. I told my mother several times over the past twenty four hours that I would have a 5 PM appointment on Wednesday, although I didn’t expect her to remember it. But she did, and when I got home from work today at 3:45 I found her in a bad mood.

I immediately sat down for a few minutes to brush Lily. “You could’ve been home by now if you’d left earlier,” my mother said.

“My appointment is at 5. They don’t take people in the order they arrive–it’s not a walk-in clinic.”

She scowled and pursed her lips. I continued to brush Lily. “Would you like something to eat before I go?” I asked.

“No. I’m not hungry.”

More brushing.

“If you leave now, you’ll get home sooner,” she persisted.

“No, if I leave now, I’ll sit in the waiting room longer.”

“You always leave early.”

“No,” I said evenly, “I don’t do that. If I have an appointment at 5, I leave at quarter of.”

Silence. More brushing. I could feel the foul mood emanating from her. I was realizing that this disruption to her evening routine was making her unreasonably angry. When she becomes angry her posture sags, so she was now slumped in her usual place on the couch like a kid being punished, her lips set in an inverted U.

“You could have been back by now.”

By this time I was brushing so obsessively that Lily snapped her head around and gave me a dirty look. “Do you want to eat before I go?” I asked my mother again.

“I’m not hungry.”

Well, where do you go from here? Although it was only 4:30, and the vet’s office was only a 5-minute drive, I put Lily’s harness on and led her to the door. “Bye,” I said. My mother wouldn’t look at me–she stared straight ahead, her lips tight.

I took Lily for a little walk once we arrived, then we had her check-up and shot, and I talked a short while with her vet. We were home before 6 o’clock.

“Was there a crowd there?” my mother greeted me sourly. “You’ve been gone for so long.”

“No, there wasn’t a crowd.”

“Why were you gone so long?”

Well, maybe because I left a half hour early?? At this point I snapped, “You know, I DO have other things to do, besides coming home to make you dinner!” I threw up my hands for dramatic effect. She let up after that–whenever I make a meltdown overture she backs off, but I don’t like cheap melodramatics.

I still haven’t given up the idea that this behavior is something that can be “cured.” But I know that AD is shortening her fuse. She doesn’t have the mental resources to reason with herself, to identify her own impatience and measure it against reality. Her impatience flares up and it takes over. No more filters, I guess.

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