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Heather’s story: moving forward without confrontation

Tips from an experienced carer on reducing anxiety and confrontation.

Heather, a nurse, coped with changes due to her mother-in-law’s dementia by trying to understand and imagine the experience from her mother-in-law’s perspective. When her mother-in-law became agitated, and convinced that things were missing, Heather would take the time to listen and empathise with her feelings of loss. She would then move the focus of the conversation forward by suggesting they do something together, like having a cup of tea.

Heather said “Sympathising or agreeing with whatever Mum was worried about, then changing the focus of the conversation was a lot more effective that telling her she was wrong and no-one had stolen her shoes! It simply avoids confrontation. If I try to tell her that whatever is wrong, it just increases Mum’s anxiety and we are likely to have a big argument.”

“Getting Mum involved in familiar everyday jobs, such as fixing a meal, gardening, walking the dog, or working on compiling the family photo album, mostly works to calm and occupy her, but I have to step in just as I see the worry and anxiety starting. If she gets worked up it is difficult to divert her.”

“I have learned that I just don’t disagree with Mum. If she thinks she has an appointment and is running late I don’t tell her she is wrong or doesn’t have an appointment. I suggest we check the calendar together. This way Mum doesn’t lose face, she is happier and so am I.”


Managing changes

Read more strategies from carers on managing anxiety about memory and thinking difficulties.