The need to feel useful

Discussion in 'I have a partner with dementia' started by Rageddy Anne, Feb 5, 2015.

  1. Rageddy Anne

    Rageddy Anne Registered User

    Feb 21, 2013
    My husband was always eager to help people, and keen to be helpful in our home ( as long as I asked him to do things he liked doing). Now he has Dementia, and can't always make sense of what people say, but he still wants to help.

    It's been gradually getting more and more difficult to find jobs that he can do. I used to ask him to take out the rubbish to the dustbin but now he's forgotten where the dustbin is. I used to be able to ask him to set the table, but now he doesn't even know where the table is, let alone the mats and cutlery. Once I could ask him to make a mug of coffee, but now he doesn't even know where the mugs or the coffee are, not the kettle, or even how to fill it. If I ask him to do something now, what it really means is that I stand beside him explaining every step of what he has to do, and showing him where everything is.

    So the easiest option, especially when I'm tired and busy, is to ignore his need to help and do everything myself. AND OF COURSE HE GETS UPSET AND FEELS USELESS.

    Apart from having lots of visitors to distract him, has anyone got any ideas for how to cope with this?
  2. Grey Lad

    Grey Lad Registered User

    Sep 12, 2014
    North East Lincs
    Wow that's a difficult ask Anne but I think I know just what you mean. I don't have any real idea what to suggest so I am making this up as I type. I guess it is just a question of trying something and sticking with it for as long as it works. Do you know but sorry I can't come up with anything just now. I try all sorts of silly things just to pass the time and try to have a few laughs together. Hope I might think of something later.
  3. pony-mad

    pony-mad Registered User

    May 23, 2014
    Good Morning Raggedy Ann,
    I have a very similar situation. I know OH desperately wants to feel useful. What can I do? is a frequent plea.
    Jobs that he can still do......polishing the table over and over again with"proper" polish; and stirring the mince for bolognaise sauce!
    Have a good day

    Sent from my iPhone using Talking Point
  4. Ann Mac

    Ann Mac Registered User

    Oct 17, 2013
    Hi Anne - similar, but I don't think quite as big, an issue here with Mil. Especially at a weekend, she frequently asks if she can 'do something to help' - unfortunately, a lot of things she can't manage now (not that she remembers that), and even things she can do, she can't sustain focus for more than a short time - so I'm left with having to stop what I'm doing to supervise or help her, and that's not always possible.

    At the moment, we are down to her folding tea towels and towels (though I have to watch she doesn't use them as hankies as she is doing that), putting polish on a cloth so she can 'dust', and asking her to 'tidy the front room' - she will straighten cushions and gather the pups toys onto the dog bed. I can only ask her to do the last task if I've already done a sweep and removed anything that she might decide to bin or that might fit in her handbag, like books, glasses or any of daughters possessions (kindle, loom band stuff, headphones) :rolleyes: Kitchen is off limits because of the nose blowing on any handy material and the danger from kettle, toaster and even hot water these days.

    I'm now thinking that I am going to take one of my old sewing boxes, and fill it with buttons, odd cotton reels, chalks, whatever I can think of and ask her to sort it out for me - she can do that sitting, and as long as I remove pins/needles etc, I'm hoping that will help keep her occupied, safe and not need to be supervised. We also have a large glass 'loose change' jar and I think I could ask her to sort the coins - though I think I may have to swap the glass for a plastic container - don't care if the glass gets broke, but it would upset her if that happened. I've also bought a couple of cheap photo albums and collected from the internet lots of old photographs of where she grew up, from the 1940's to 1960's. Not sure if she can manage it, but I'm going to print them, and ask her to stick them in the books - if she can't, then maybe I can do it with her, and the books might then also interest her - we'll see.

    I don't know if anything like the things I'm sorting for Mil will appeal to your OH, but if not, maybe they will give you an idea for something suitable for him? It is hard - Mil often wants to help with whatever it is I am doing but just can't remember how once she starts, or the task just isn't safe - and I do feel awful having to say No to her, and like your OH, she often feels useless :(.
  5. Grey Lad

    Grey Lad Registered User

    Sep 12, 2014
    North East Lincs
    Some great ideas here Ann Mac might try a few of them for Maureen. G L
  6. pamann

    pamann Registered User

    Oct 28, 2013
    Hello Raggettyanne this is a very difficult time, my hubby used to do so much the ideal handyman to have, there was nothing he couldn't do, oh how l miss him, he is bodily fit so still goes out walking not on his own as he gets lost, when we are at home he is always sorting his chest of draws out sometimes all day, or he will sit in the window looking out down the road. Most days l take him out in the car, we still go to the bowls club, he doesn't play now, but sits watching, l still play its my lifeline, members keep an eye on him incase he wanders off. Is your husband bodily fit? It must be awful trying to keep him occupied, would he go to Alzheimers or dementia clubs, they are very good, and would give you a break, or day care. ♡♡♡
  7. Sue J

    Sue J Registered User

    Dec 9, 2009
    Hi RA:)

    Would he be able to do vegetables, sitting with a bowl, for peelings and a saucepan? If he didn't manage well you could at least sit rather than stand in helping him to 'help' you. His spirit is willing bless him:)

    Hope you find something that will help him have a sense of achievement.
  8. Lindy50

    Lindy50 Registered User

    Dec 11, 2013
    Oh Rageddy, don't I just know this feeling with mum. She was a carer all her life (before the term was invented). I can remember her looking after her own mum and aunts, my cousin who had a breakdown and appeared on our doorstep one day, my dad of course, other residents in the sheltered housing, her grandchildren.....and so on. Helping out has been her life's work, and it's so cruel that now she feels so useless and not needed.

    This is the reason, of course, that I keep up with 'knitting squares for the children', however oddly-shaped they turn out. But you've given me a kick up the proverbial to try harder to find additional ways of her being useful. Some great suggestions from AnnMac, though I fear that most of them are beyond mum.

    I don't have any immediate ideas, just wanted to thank you for raising the issue. Hope you find some useful activities for your OH :)

    Lindy xx
  9. Rageddy Anne

    Rageddy Anne Registered User

    Feb 21, 2013
    #9 Rageddy Anne, Feb 5, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2015
    Thankyou everyone for some really good food for thought.

    Sue, I'd actually forgotten for the moment that he can still manage to peel carrots! And that's a truly useful thing to do.nice snacks raw, and a good vegetable. And also potatoes. He can fill some fridge boxes for the weekend. Maybe cauliflower florets too.

    AnnMac, I had to laugh at the nose blowing. Sorry! Can't be funny!

    Pamann, he was fit and active but inertia has made him sluggish. He now has a new ' friend', ( introduced via a lady from Alzheimers .org) and they plan to go for some walks, including a pub lunch, so that will be good. He gave up golf when he couldn't remember how many times he'd hit the ball, and someone accused him of cheating. Like you, I so miss the odd job man pottering about.

    He's been happily occupied this afternoon watching out for birds after he'd put some fat balls into a hanging container for the birds, and I hung it from a tree next to the conservatory.

    Maybe tomorrow there'll be some snow to sweep.
  10. Canadian Joanne

    Canadian Joanne Volunteer Moderator

    Apr 8, 2005
    Toronto, Canada
    We forget how important it is to feel needed and to be useful. Early in her illness, my mother kept wanting to help me with things. I deeply regret that I didn't let her do more.
  11. Ann Mac

    Ann Mac Registered User

    Oct 17, 2013
    Our CPN and SW advised us right at the start to encourage Mil to help as much as possible, and believe me, we did - and I'm glad we did. Its just horrible how quickly the illness has caused her to deteriorate and that so many things just are not possible now :( I've found it very hard, especially when I've had to put my foot down and find a way to completely stop her helping with certain tasks - I'm torn, knowing she gets frustrated and is confused by why I consistently refuse to let her wash up, but there are so many issues/dificulties she has around that task that in the end I felt it was the only option - the nose blowing being one of those issues. Added to that, sometimes she would put the plug in and run the tap to the point that the bowl was overflowing (not only a hell of a mess to clean up, but then the danager of a slippy floor), her idea of actually washing was to just flash a plate under the cold tap (no detergent, not attempt to use sponge or cloth, not recognising that she was leaving items dirty), just drop plates, glasses and cups into the sink resulting in lots of breakages, put 'washed' crocks onto the drainer in teetering towers that toppled and led to more breakages and as she was drying, because the crocs weren't clean, she simply transferred the stuff left on one plate to another - with a liberal helping of snot, each time she blew her nose! She hated me 'standing over her' as she did the job (which I tried), and if I pointed out that a plate still had a smear of gravy, she would either get angry - or lick her finger and rub at the smear to get rid of it :eek: Leaving her 'unsupervised at the very least left me with the task of going through cupboards and the cutlery drawer and possibly having to re-wash everything to be sure that it was actually all clean, or at worst, risking not only all of the above, but also the possibility that she would try to boil an empty kettle, or stand the kettle in a half full sink of water to fill it, or touch switches with wet hands or decide to switch on the hob and leave a tea towel or empty pot on it. It was too unsafe, too unhygenic - and also, if I am honest - it took up way too much time to allow her to continue - and thats been the case with several jobs she used to do :(
  12. truth24

    truth24 Registered User

    Oct 13, 2013
    North Somerset
    This illness is so cruel in so many ways.

    Sent from my GT-N5110
  13. Hair Twiddler

    Hair Twiddler Registered User

    Aug 14, 2012
    Middle England
    Mum's arranging some flowers for me (already cut to length)
    they do look good -very Picasso-esk! Job done!
  14. Cathy*

    Cathy* Registered User

    Jan 4, 2015
    My mum used to enjoy being in the garden and she was still able to recognise plants even when she'd forgotten how to make tea etc. I used to ask her to help me sorting out the weeds from the flowers. She was still able to do that when she was in her wheelchair and enjoyed giving me instructions.
  15. Trisha4

    Trisha4 Registered User

    Jan 16, 2014
    Sorry I've not giving ideas but I am saying we are in the same situation. It is wearing and more difficult when you are tired or busy. Could he still match socks when they have been washed?

    Sent from my iPad using Talking Point
  16. Scullerina

    Scullerina Registered User

    Jan 25, 2015
    I found my mother struggled to make a cup of tea until I put big labels on the kettle, tea caddy, sugar and fridge. Now she looks around a bit confused, sees the labels and gets on with it. There are some other really good ideas here.
    And you should talk to the golf club to stop all that 'cheating' nonsense. If he's still able to swing a club, what better therapy could there be?
  17. Rageddy Anne

    Rageddy Anne Registered User

    Feb 21, 2013
    Thankyou Scullerina, what you say has made me think about kitchens, not that we'll be able to change ours, but it made me realise how confusing it must be for someone with ALZHEIMERS. It's fully fitted, and after eighteen years is still wonderful from my point of view, but everything is hidden behind identical doors; dishwasher, washing machine, and two fridges. Something like finding the milk must be a nightmare for him.
    I try to keep 'clutter' to a minimum, but instead of being in the cupboards, I'll keep tea and coffee always be out on the counter in future, with mugs etc.
  18. Canadian Joanne

    Canadian Joanne Volunteer Moderator

    Apr 8, 2005
    Toronto, Canada
    Raggedy Anne, I think Scullerina's suggestion of big labels is a good one also.

    You must be one of those incredibly great housekeepers. I'm more of the organic type of housekeeper - think big mess. :D
  19. Jackie533

    Jackie533 Registered User

    Jan 3, 2015
    Hello. Just read your post and it struck a real chord with me. My hubby just like yours always willing and enjoyed helping anyone, and. Now the simplest task is so so difficult for him, just finding another room in the house we have lived in for 40 years is often beyond him. Heartbreaking watch. Not offering you much help only that I know how it feels. Best wishes

    Sent from my iPhone using Talking Point
  20. Grey Lad

    Grey Lad Registered User

    Sep 12, 2014
    North East Lincs
    We labelled kitchen cupboards after Maureen's stroke. This has been really helpful when carers are putting things away. It has also been a subtle way of helping Maureen to locate our things. Unfortunately, I have noticed lately that things are not always going back in the usual places. I am wondering about replacing the labels with pictures and seeing how that goes. But I have to be so careful that I don't rock the boat and cause further anxiety.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.