Shattered iPods in Dementialand

The other day I was getting on the treadmill when I dropped my iPod. It landed precisely on its screen. And, yep, the screen shattered.

It still works. Except if I want to adjust the volume. I’m still deciding how important that is.

My husband, Bill, calls me the Osama bin Laden of electronics. It’s fair (although he recently left a FitBit out in the snow for a week).

This is the third iPod I’ve dropped and broke in the past couple years. And I put one pair of headphones through the washer and dryer on Thanksgiving. Bill bought me a new pair for Christmas. I washed those a few days after the New Year. Miracle of miracles, those still work.

If I continue my electronic terrorist ways and happen to develop dementia, Bill might be in trouble. Because if I don’t remember breaking electronics, I will likely blame him.

Think about it. If I break my iPod and I don’t remember breaking it a couple of hours later, I will see a busted iPod and assume the only other person in our house broke it. Based on my reality, that’s a logical explanation.

Sometimes people with dementia become paranoid and accusatory. It’s frustrating, of course, but it makes total and complete sense.

A man with dementia can’t find his tools in the garage. He may have moved them a few weeks back, but he doesn’t remember that. So he thinks the neighbor stole them. (I cannot even tell you how many times I’ve heard a story about a guy with dementia who thinks the neighbor guy is taking his tools. Sometimes I have to wonder if there is really is a jerk going around northeast Iowa stealing tools from men with dementia.)

A woman gets a call from her doctor’s office to remind her of her appointment tomorrow. She doesn’t remember making the appointment. So she calls her daughter because her daughter must have made the appointment without asking her first. And she doesn’t think she needs to see a doctor in the first place.

People with dementia work within their own realities. For the record, so do people who don’t have dementia. But when the person with dementia and the caregiver live in different realities, it’s tough.

Caregivers tell me stories like:

“My husband thinks I mess up the TV by hitting all the wrong buttons on the remote. But he does it.”

“Mom leaves the oven on all the time. When she notices it’s on, she calls me and yells at me because she thinks I left the oven on when I was at her house.”

If you are a loved one of someone with dementia, what do you do when you get accused of something you didn’t do?

You step into their reality–which means you apologize. If you have a loved one who has short term memory problems that lead to accusations, you are gonna be saying “I’m sorry” a lot.

And, for most of us, that’s really hard. It’s difficult enough to apologize when you’re wrong. And now you’ve gotta do it when you’re not wrong.

And after you say, “I’m sorry about that,” you focus on modifying the environment. Can you change the set-up of the remote or TV so it’s harder to screw up? Can you unplug the oven or even take it out of the kitchen so Mom doesn’t leave it on?

So practice this line: “I’m sorry about that. Let’s see what we can do to fix it.”

Did you break it, take it, or mess it up? Nope. And it doesn’t matter.

Welcome to Dementialand.