Dementia: Infection Making Matters Worse

It all makes sense now: why Maureen has been so tired and confused over the last few days – infection is dragging her down.  A course of antibiotics should do the trick, and things should improve fairly quickly.  It’s another one of those occasions where there is no going without pain.  The pain being the difficulty in getting Maureen to take an additional four tablets a day.

Maureen is confused about how she has got an infection.  Her questions have come thick and fast: seeking an explanation about what has caused the infection; when she has to take the antibiotics, and for how long?   Unfortunately, the infection is adding to her general confusion and all of this is difficult for her to absorb and understand.

At first Maureen was in despair over the news of the infection, and I encouraged her to try and sleep it off.  She awoke in the evening looking a little more sprightly, and I let the music play.  With Art Garfunkel to accompany her she gave a good rendition of a couple of numbers.  So then I went for the jugular and put on South Pacific and with her soup spoon in hand she once again: ‘Washed That Man Right Out of Her Hair’ – Get the Picture?

It is likely to be a challenging  few days until the antibiotics kick.  I need to be patient and yet again draw on the wisdom of Teepa Snow.  These  5 Tips for Care Partners are a useful reminder of where I need to focus my attention in the next few days:teepasnow

1) Step back first

Before you do anything, take stock of what’s going on in the environment, observe the person and their behaviour, be mindful of the moment in time – forget about what happened an hour ago or yesterday. The reality of a person with dementia can be extraordinarily dynamic. Ask yourself what is going on for them now, at this particular point in time, before you say or do anything. (See also: 1) the “B” in BANGS; and 2)  the “A” in BANGS)

2) Respond don’t react

It’s easy to get caught up in reacting to other people and in the process behave in ways that are unproductive. With the help of a counsellor as well as by teaching myself through experience, I learned to look at my own reactions to “problematic” responsive behaviours which I discovered I often provoked myself! That was an eye opener I can tell you.

Once I identified that I was part of the problem, I was able to respond in much more helpful ways and thus become part of the solution. (See also: the “A” in BANGS)

3) Have a plan

Yes, we need to fill the day with activities, meals, quiet time, etc. But, and it’s a BIG but, it’s critical to be flexible. The plan we have may not fit with the changing minute-to-minute wants, needs and desires of the person with dementia. Plans are good guidelines. They fail when we try to stick to them at all costs. Better to go with the flow. (See also: the “G” in BANGS)

4) Know about control

Remember you cannot control anyone else’s behaviour, especially someone with dementia whose ability to use reason and logic may be significantly reduced. The only person’s behaviour you can control is your own. Teach yourself to behave in ways that reduce anxiety for yourself and the person with dementia. (See also: the “A” in BANGS)

5) Stop doing what doesn’t work’

Teepa Snow expands on her tips in this short video clip.



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