My mom has become resistant to my help and is hard to handle. She believes she doesn’t have any problems and doesn’t need help. She’s easily agitated and gets upset when I try to get her dressed.


Common response: Mother having hard time finding clothes, putting on winter clothes/inappropriate clothes. Daughter tells mom it is hot outside and wear something else, tries to rush. Mother having hard time closing button, does not know what to do with clothes. Daughter tells “what is wrong with you” and patient gets embarrassed and asks daughter to leave her alone as she can do self. Daughter insists to help and tries to grab the blouse. Mother pushes daughter away. Daughter break into tears and leave the room.

Expert explanation: Agitation and anxiety are often triggered by feeling a loss of control, misperceiving situations or actions as threats, inability to communicate clearly, and frustration with tasks or interactions with family and caregivers. How caregiver approaches and communicate a person with dementia can make a difference.

Recommended response: Daughter observes her mother who is struggling to get dressed. Daughter offers help as she sees that her mother is having hard time deciding what to wear. When mom refuses for help, daughter acknowledges mom’s feeling, tells mom that she is sorry, offers her availability in case that mom needs help, and comforts mom that she will stay and be there for mom. Daughter continues to stay with mom. Daughter helped to simplify the closet so that it is easier for mom to see inside and have fewer clothing options to choose from, clothes that are easy to put on.

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The project described was supported by Grant Number 1C1CMS330982 from the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The contents of this publication are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or any of its agencies. This project was funded, in part, by the Archstone Foundation.