Discouraging Your Loved One's Rude Comments

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • My mom has always been a stickler for politeness. She never gossiped, rarely said rude things, and always minded her p’s and q’s. Now that Alzheimer’s is part of her life, I find that Mom often displays a tendency toward rudeness when she’s in a public situation.

    For instance, Mom and I were sitting in the doctor’s office last winter waiting for her appointment. I was trying to carry on a conversation with her when another patient was called in to see the doctor. My mom watched as the woman got up to head to the door that led to the examination rooms. “Did you see that woman’s shelf?” Mom said right as the woman passed her. I quickly realized that Mom was referring to the woman’s well-endowed chest. I quickly tried to get Mom’s attention to another topic and hoped that no one – especially the woman – had heard Mom’s comments.
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    Mom loves to people watch, but I have noticed that as her Alzheimer’s progresses, she has a tendency to say rude things that could be hurtful to other people. I don’t know if those thoughts have always been present, but tempered by her Midwestern upbringing. Or the possibility exists that those remarks are being egged on by the disease.

    I’ve found that when Mom is in an unfamiliar or crowded area (most likely visiting the doctor) now, she will spout off some comment that would hurt someone’s feelings. Mom has loudly criticized people’s weight, their looks, and their clothing choices.

    So how do we avoid hurting some stranger’s feelings? I find that I increasingly try to keep Mom preoccupied in conversation (mostly through telling stories) when we’re out so she can’t focus on other people. When that approach is not successful and Mom is looking around, I’ll try to get her seated in an area where she can watch and say things, but not be overheard.

    For instance, two weeks ago Mom had another doctor’s appointment. After we saw the doctor, we had to wait for a ride back to the nursing home. Mom was beginning to look around and watch people quite a bit, and she wasn’t in the best of moods, so a strong possibility existed that she would say something hurtful. So I decided that we should move out of the doctor office’s waiting room (which was pretty small), and down into the office complex’s atrium, which was larger. There were people for Mom to watch in the atrium too, but we could be in a location where we weren’t surrounded by people if Mom made a rude comment.

    Alzheimer’s Disease can cause some new – and not-so-civilized - qualities to become part of the loved one’s personality. As a caregiver, I believe it is our duty to try to help our loved one be placed in a position where he or she can not do damage to another person’s ego. It’s hard enough to watch our loved one suffer; yet, I find that the situation is worse when our loved one makes someone else suffer inadvertently. So my goal is to try to make sure only one person – my mother – is the victim of the mental anguish caused by Alzheimer’s.
Published On: September 12, 2006