Three years ago, Mom and Lyn hosted a Christmas open house. It was well before Lyn's dementia diagnosis and before anyone had any idea that the changes in her behavior were a result in the changes happening in her brain. Mom explains:
"During the last one, she went to her room and came storming back all but yelling. I had put a small santa ornament on her door, like I've done for years. She exploded, in front of several mental health therapists and wouldn't calm down. You could have heard a pin drop outside her ranting about that being on her door. At the time I had no idea what the problem was, now I know."
Dementia changes a person's ability to perceive, think and understand what is going on around them. For Lyn, this causes challenges when she no longer perceives that she's the center of attention. It also happens if she thinks her role in the event, such as hostess, is questioned or in any way called into doubt. Her desire to prove her worth is very high and she is defensive about her contributions.
When your caring for someone with dementia, managing their environment is one of the primary approaches to managing behaviors such as the agitation described above. In the last open house, for example, Mom had invited about 30 guests. The guests were all in the house at roughly the same time. It was a large, chatty gathering which may have been too much stimulation for Lyn.
Mom and Lyn decided to host an open house again this year. Lyn's diagnosis means that Mom knows what's going on and what she can anticipate. To mitigate, Mom has only invited about 10 guests and asked that their arrival times are spread out over the course of the afternoon. Mom is cautiously looking forward to the open house. She wants to have the social event but is afraid that Lyn will melt down like she did the last time.
Additional Information Sources:
Managing Agitation Behavior in Alzheimer's Patients by Rich O'Boyle
Living with Dementia by Patrick Barkham for The Guardian