There are many family caregivers (and professional caregivers) who don’t understand what is physically happening to the brain and therefore don’t know how to communicate with their loved one. There are certain things you do and do not say to someone with Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia.
Consequently this lack of understanding can lead to verbal abuse, perhaps not done with intent, but ultimately that is what happens. “Verbal abuse is the most common way to attempt to control the behavior, thoughts, and feelings of another human being.”
Caregivers who are not knowledgeable end up arguing with their loved one, confronting them regularly and pointing out to others, in front of their loved one, that what has been said is wrong.
There is a phrase we use in the dementia field… NEVER, NEVER, NEVER ARGUE with a dementia patient. Alzheimer’s and dementia patients live in their own reality. It will differ from our “normal” reality, but it is real for them and we can’t change that. When caregivers don’t honor a patients reality, we see verbal abuse taking place.
The best thing a caregiver can do when a patient disagrees or accuses you of something that is not accurate, is to walk away from the situation. Leave the room…go get the laundry… make the bed, etc. When you return your loved one may have already forgotten what just took place or you can start another conversation that is totally different from the previous one. In most cases a caregiver doesn’t realize the seriousness of arguing with their loved one. It takes practice and can be very frustrating to walk away, but if implemented, life for the caregiver and the patient will be more pleasant and manageable.