Am I doing more harm than good visiting my OH in her care home.

Discussion in 'I have a partner with dementia' started by Thursdayschild, Nov 11, 2018.

  1. Thursdayschild

    Thursdayschild Registered User

    Jul 27, 2014
    Yet more advice please. My OH (now aged ony 66) has been in a good care home for a year now. She settled very well, then went through a really tearful patch but some recent changes to her medications have helped alievaite this. The advice about medication reviews I got on this forum was very helpful. The big struggle for the home at the moment is getting her to keep incontinence pants on - but that is another story.

    I visit most days and at the beginiing she was always very pleased to see me, even though she kind of forgot who I was after a few weeks, but my currency as someone she 'knew' and who cares for her was good. However, the last weeks have seen her getting angry with me and she starts to cry when I visit. She won't come out for a walk now and says she doesen't like me and walks out of the room. I think she also tries to tell me something about me putting her in the home - though her articulation is not good now.

    I pay some helpers to go into the home to give the one-to-one staff don't have time for and my OH is very cheerful with them. Staff say she is not at all unhappy.

    I come away feeling awful, especially as I have left my OH angry and tearful. So I am asking myself if I am doing more harm than good. Does seeing me dredge up some sort of hazy memory of life with me somewhere else? In her dementia has she got it right that I placed/put her in the home and so she is rightly cross? Should I stay away? Our kids visit very infrequently as they find the illness very upsetting and my OH aso can get angry with them.

    It seems 'strangers' have the best visits. Any advice welcome as always.
  2. canary

    canary Registered User

    Feb 25, 2014
    South coast
    People with dementia get short-term memory loss, so they cant remember things that have happened, but they do retain an emotional memory, so that they remember the emotions even when they cant remember exactly what happened. I have a suspicion that your OH is remembering the emotions of being upset when she sees you and so next time, she becomes upset all over again. It may have, indeed, been triggered initially by a fragment of memory of her moving into the care home

    My own suggestion is that you dont visit for 2 or 3 weeks to break this loop and when you do go take some form of treat (cake? chocolate?) which may distract her and improve her mood. Also, watch your body language. I found that mum used to mirror my emotions and OH has started doing this too, so go in with a bright smile stapled to your face and a breezy isnt-everything-lovely attitude. Dont stay long and hopefully you will leave her happy.
  3. AliceA

    AliceA Registered User

    May 27, 2016
    Good advice.
  4. Amy in the US

    Amy in the US Registered User

    Feb 28, 2015
    Excellent advice above. I agree with taking a break and then trying again. You might also talk to the staff and see if they have any advice or observations for you.

    My mother's anger and outbursts were triggered by my presence, first in hospital when she was sectioned and then when we moved her to the care home directly from hospital.

    So, after the move into the care home, i didn't visit her for a long time, about two months. My husband would visit her and she was fine with him, but would often say nasty things about me. As she settled, I started going for short visits, but never alone, and as much as possible in public areas. She often wanted to get me alone in her room "to have a talk about things" with me, but I avoided this as much as possible. If I was in her room with her and she started the negative comments or angry behavior, I would excuse myself to use the toilet (or whatever) and leave the room. This would often re-set things. If not, I would end the visit and leave. I always left when things got unpleasant, even if I had only been there one minute. Gradually, as her dementia advanced and time passed, we no longer had the anger and vitriol.

    I also never visited empty handed. Starting the visit with a gift helped set a positive tone and ensure her mood stayed positive.

    Humor also works well with my mother, but of course that's not for everyone. I often found I could head off the anger, or flip her mood back to positive, with a carefully placed joke or comment.

    Canary is so right about the body language. My mother had an unsettling laser like focus for any hint of anything negative or "off" in body language or tone of voice. Even when delirious in hospital, she would be bothered by some body language. Now her verbal skills are declining and she often doesn't understand what we are saying, but she can still read tone of voice and some facial expressions. Every time I visit, I pause before going inside and sort of mentally put on my "visiting" persona.

    I often think that classes in acting and improvisational comedy would be good training for dealing with dementia.

    Sorry for the long ramble. I hope something in here is helpful to someone.

    Best wishes and hope you can find a way forward. I know it's not easy.
  5. Joyt

    Joyt Registered User

    Jun 30, 2018
    That’s very helpful advice, thank you
  6. Amy in the US

    Amy in the US Registered User

    Feb 28, 2015
    You are most welcome. How are you?
  7. Joyt

    Joyt Registered User

    Jun 30, 2018
    Thank you for asking Amy.
    I’m processing trauma. I have found a place of safety and care for my husband, but the fallout of the move to care and continued progression of the disease for me and the family is devastating. I’m searching for support for the people impacted by the loss.

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