ARTICLES / General /
Meet Them Where They Are /
by Malika Brown, MSW, LSW
Oh boy, there goes mom again: “I want to go
home! Take me home!” She actually is home, but
she wants to go back to her home from childhood.
“Delores, come here!” Her sister’s name was
Delores, but your name is Elaine, and her sister
passed away long ago.
“I WILL NOT GET IN THAT SHOWER! LEAVE ME ALONE!”
These are just some examples of what caregivers
go through when living with a loved one with
Alzheimer’s disease. It is very difficult to
understand why our parents or spouses, once
alert, intelligent, lively people, cannot even
remember our names anymore. We want them to snap
out of it, to come back to reality: “For the one
hundredth time, you are home, Mom. My name is
not Delores; I’m your daughter Elaine; don’t you
remember? You WILL get in that shower; you
cannot walk around stinky all day!” Everyone
gets frustrated because no matter how hard you
try, they just don’t seem to ‘get it.’
While it is natural for us to want them to come
back to our reality, many times, it may be
easier to go into theirs. Alzheimer’s patients
don’t remember recent events anymore because
they can’t, no matter how many times we tell
them, and no matter how hard they try. That’s
what this illness is all about.
However, would it hurt us to go back to their
reality? What is your mom, dad, or spouse
thinking or feeling when they mistake you for
their sister or brother? Why won’t they take a
shower? Why do they want to go back to their
Instead of becoming frustrated and angry at
something that your loved one cannot control,
step into their world, just for that moment. For
example, ask your loved one “You have to go
home? Is it important for you to go home? What
do you have to do there?” This may just give you
an insight into your loved one’s past that you
never knew before. This will also allow them to
talk about something that has been on their
minds, but they really didn’t know why.
Another example could be “Do you miss Delores?
What did you like best about her?” Again, this
will allow your loved one to reminisce, and it
will allow you to have an intimate moment with
your loved one.
Many times, people with Alzheimer’s disease
don’t like the shower because the showerhead
water comes down from above and scares them.
This happens because their visual cues don’t
work the same as ours. This can be handled by
letting the water run from the faucet below, or
giving a sponge bath instead of a shower.
Although these tips won’t work all the time,
they may work some of the time. Easing the
stress of you and your loved one will allow more
quality time to spend with each other, a more
trusting, intimate bond, and a better
understanding of what’s on their minds.
Remember, they’re not doing this on purpose;
they do love you and they are trying the best