Sometimes my mother totally refuses to cooperate with me (for dressing, cleaning up, etc.). But if we call in a familiar nurse-aide, Mom’s a peach and there are no problems. What gives?

The difference in relationships matters. Non-relatives sometimes have easier access or more cooperation precisely because they are NOT family members. Many times, loved ones are harder on their relatives than anyone else. Your mother probably feels she can act however she wants around relatives.

Sometimes, loved ones don’t have good relationships to start with and this is just continuation of that dynamic. But usually a person will be on his or her best behavior for someone outside the family. That’s good news for aides, doctors and sometimes even strangers with whom they interact.

Sometimes all the family contact, and familiarity it brings, is too much. You both might just need a break from one another, having spent too much time together already.

This is not something you should take personally. Your mother still loves you. Just remember that she has a form of dementia. Many people don’t realize that almost all inhibition is eliminated with dementia. It’s a bit of a mystery, frankly, how some people can maintain such good manners with someone who is not as familiar with them as you.

It’s important for caregivers (such as yourself) to learn to let things go. You should weigh things such as: If all she wants to eat is chocolate pudding, is it hurting anyone/anything? If she wants it for breakfast, it might not be the most nutritious thing for her, but it’s not going to harm her (unless medically contra-indicated, of course). 

Learn to step back and evaluate the overall implications of odd requests or off-plan behavior. Choose your battles wisely. Often, if a loved one with Alzheimer’s doesn’t want to eat or dress or do some other common task, she or he will cooperate when you ask again later.

For more information, please click here to download our FREE “Indispensable Alzheimer’s Kit.”