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Logic vs. Illogic

One of the difficulties of dealing with dementia is thinking logically with an illogical person. Over the years of caring for my mother, my logical mind has been blown by the things my mother’s mind has come up with. Paranoia and hallucinations rank at the top of the list of illogical thoughts.

A few months after moving mother from Florida, she started calling me at different times throughout the day with one bizarre notion or another. One day, the movers in Florida who helped us load her U-Haul truck were standing on her doorstep knocking on her door, trying to move her to Alaska. Another day her ex-husband (of 60 or so years ago) was working at the garage behind her apartment. On several occasions, one of the men in her apartment complex was calling her and then hanging up on her. More than once, she was just certain that someone from her distant past was trying to contact her. Most recently, she has been seeing deceased relatives, insistent that she definitely saw them. I knew none of these things were true, but try as I might I could not convince my mother.

After dealing with this for a couple of years, I finally wizened up. I hope some of my tips will help you handle an illogical mind.

• Diversion has become key for me. Whenever possible, I divert mother’s attention to some other topic. With the dementia, she is not able to stay focused on one topic for very long. If I can think quickly enough, I switch the topic. I get her thinking about something else and then she forgets the original thought. You may be thinking this isn’t “very nice,” but we are talking about dealing with an illogical mind. You have to throw out all logic and learn to survive on your wits.

• Do not succumb to anger or even think about contradicting the illogical mind. You will be fighting a battle you will never win. You have to try to keep from frustrating yourself whenever possible. Often when mother goes off on an illogical path, I ask her questions. For instance, she told me once that a food truck parked itself in the parking lot of the garage behind her apartment. I asked her what kind of food they served. She went on and on about how the proprietors set out tables where people could eat and the shape of the truck looked like a Viking ship. Instead of discounting what she was saying, I just let her ramble. She communicates with very few people, so I gave her the opportunity to hear herself talk and I kept my sanity.

• Humor is also a good strategy. For instance, she asked me recently if I saw her mother on television. I never knew my grandmother as she died before I was born. So, I replied to her, “Given the fact your mother died probably 60 years ago, no I did not see her on television.” Of course, the quip went right over her head, but I got a chuckle and, again, kept my sanity. I use humor often when dealing with my mother. Humor has become my top survival tool.

I think you probably get the idea. Although you find it difficult to be a logical person in an illogical world, you will save yourself much anguish if you can keep a level head. Just remember Rudyard Kipling’s words, “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…,” and you should be okay.

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