Monday, October 5, 2015

So You Had a Bad Day

Last week during the full-blood-super-moon eclipse, I discovered that I wasn’t my normal self. I woke up at 10:30 a.m. after an extraordinarily long night of nightmare infested slumber. To say I got up on the wrong side of the bed is an understatement—it was more like I got up on the wrong side of the house. Cranky, headachy, and on the verge of tears, it’s no wonder my husband retreated to his office for the day. His main goal of the day was to steer clear of the crazy woman in the kitchen.

There was no explanation for the way I felt. It just was, and it wasn’t going away. It all boiled down to simply having a bad day.

What causes us to have a bad day? Most of the time, it is because of external problems beyond our control that make us nervous or unhappy. Too often, we let the behavior of others ruin an otherwise good day. Someone makes a hurtful or disparaging remark that sinks its ugly roots into our self-esteem and the worry of its validity gnaws at our self-worth. Some bad days, like the one I had, are internal. An unsettling night that spilled over into the daylight.

Anyone can have a bad day, but people with dementia have more than their share. When you take into account their daily wrestling match with confusion and the other symptoms Alzheimer’s causes, it helps you understand how bad days can be plentiful.

The unfortunate nature of a bad day is that it can be contagious. When the person with dementia has a bad day, the caregiver has a bad day too.

So what the heck can you do about that? It’s hard enough to deal with yourself, much less someone else, when emotions are out of whack, common sense is on vacation, and patience abandoned ship. It’s time to give yourself a time-out.

Do something you really love to do, even if you can spare only a few minutes. Some suggestions: a half-hour comedy (I can’t possibly stay depressed watching the Golden Girls), read a magazine or a chapter in a good book, go for a walk, call your mom or a good friend, or bake cookies.

After your time-out, take a few deep breaths, and if you baked cookies, now would be a good time to have some with a glass of milk. Now you are ready to stay calmthe number one method for handling your loved one’s bad day. Hopefully, you’ve regained your ability to be patient, because you will need an abundance of it.

A good rule to remember is that what worked yesterday may not work today, so be flexible. Distraction is your friend. If your loved one is crying, or in a really bad mood, you may want to scoop up an ice cream cone. One thing that always worked with Jim was taking a drive. He loved getting in the car and heading down the road. An even better trip for him was when we stopped by DQ for a milkshake.

When a person with dementia has a bad day, it shows in his behavior. Though easier said than done, your best response is to address the emotion rather than the behavior.

There is no one cause for a bad day and there isn’t one solution. I think my bad day was the result of a bad night and, of course, the full moon. Probably the real reason is that I’m human with human emotions. So, I had a bad day. It wasn’t the first, and rest assured, it won’t be the last.

Copyright © October 2015 by L.S. Fisher

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