Tuesday, 16 October 2012

An interesting phenomenon

We take note of all the details of a disease and yet make no account of the marvels of health.

This is quoted in Zeigel's book 'I'm Still Here'. It came to mind when I was taking part in a discussion on an online forum about a common phenomenon (we know it's common as many carers have reported it) which occurs when a person with dementia is confronted with a professional or, less commonly, with someone they don't know, and puts on a 'public face' presenting themselves, quite convincingly. as 'fine', as a person who has no particular problems.

This is understandably frustrating to carers, particularly those who know that when they are alone again with the person they care for, they will have to endure aggression and, sometimes, physical violence. It's also frustrating if they have anticipated that when the professional sees the real problems, useful support will be forthcoming (of course, a positive outcome is by no means guaranteed even if the real problems are observed!).

I was interested in the fact that these brain-damaged people, whose behaviour is normally reckoned to be entirely beyond their control, are apparently capable of deciding on some level to be on their best behaviour, sometimes throughout a lengthy conversation. (It's very common for people, with and without dementia, to answer that they're fine when asked how they are, but we're talking about something much more elaborate).

Whilst recognising the frustration, I was surprised that people didn't seem to realise how remarkable this was. If a person can have this control in some situations, why not in others? Could we, perhaps, persuade them to behave differently in other situations?

Anyway, I was reminded very strongly of the Montessori quote when I read some of the discussion. 


  1. It must be very difficult for you to have to go through all of that, I used to be a care worker with people who had spinal injuries so i understand a little about the frustrations you must go through

  2. Maria Montessori is most often associated with the education of children, but not enough people know about how her discoveries have been linked to dementia! The Montessori methods are based on utilizing muscle memory, a part of the memory process that is typically less damaged by dementia.

    In the 1980's, Dr. Cameron Camp of the Myers Research Institute in Ohio discovered that the Montessori methods are very useful in helping people with dementia develop high self-esteem, reduce depression, and providing them with a sense of accomplishment and contribution.

    The Montessori Methods for Dementia have been spreading across the world and we just recently opened the first Montessori Seniors Day Program in Toronto, Canada. We understand what you're going through and wish you the best of luck in the future :)

    Check out what we are doing at www.dementiasupport.ca

    1. Thanks. Unlike some comments that have been posted recently (now deleted) which stated the obvious for no apparent purpose, this is of interest to me and, I expect, my readers.

  3. Yes, my Mom is fine for 30 minutes when someone comes in but after that she can't continue the good behaviour. I have warned my brother the last two times he's come to town to visit that he'll think she's back to normal for the first 15 to 30 minutes, but if he visits longer, he'll see she's not. Both times he or his wife have thanked me later because they saw the pattern too, that after 30 minutes she can't keep up the mask. Even a little kid can be a good kid for a few minutes, but if they are a scamp, it won't last long. My Mom is a sweety no matter how long, but after 30 minutes the rummaging, the repetition, etc., comes back and if the visitors stay much longer, the agitation.