When confronted with stressful situations, our first reaction is often that: a reaction. We act quickly without thinking because we want to normalize things in a hurry.
We usually also expect others to take responsibility for their own actions, and we’re accustomed to voicing our opinion on what’s happened. None of this works very well when dealing with dementia.
BANGS is mnemonic for five ways anyone can use to avert and defuse conflict with people who have Alzheimer’s dementia. Here are all links to all the letters in the mnemonic:
This post is about the “A” in BANGS.
“A” is for Assess
Imagine this scenario:
A daughter comes back from an early morning run. It’s important for her to build in time for herself as she cares for her mother with dementia. When she opens the door to her mother’s home, which she lives now too, she’s assailed by a disgusting smell.
“Are you okay Mom? she calls to her mother upstairs. No answer. As she climbs the stairs, the stench worsens. When she reaches the top, it is overwhelming. Diarrhea covers the long throw carpet in the hallway. She steps around patches of it on my way to her mother’s room where she finds her sitting on the bed.
“Hi Mom,” she says calmly as she walks over to her. “Is everything okay?”
“I just got up,” her mother says.
“Oh.” The daughter peeks into the ensuite. Shitty footprints all over the tiled floor. The smell makes her gag.
“Are you okay Mom? Did anything happen?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think so.”
“Okay Mom, can you stay here for a minute? I’ll be right back.”
“Okay.” The daughter walks out of the bedroom and back into the hall, rolls up the carpet poop and all and puts it at the top of the stairs.Thank God for easy-to-clean hardwood floors, she thinks to herself. She makes a right at the end of the hall and then a left into the main bathroom. Her hand flies up to cover her nose and mouth and to stop her from vomiting. There’s shit everywhere.
Who knows why her mother ventured down the hall and around two corners when there was a toilet less than six feet from her bed? But she did. When her bowels began evacuating, she probably panicked. She didn’t know what to do. She couldn’t find the commode. Compassion floods through the daughter. My poor mom. She shuts the door and goes back to her mother’s bedroom where she finds her mom sitting on the edge of the bed where she had left her.
“Hey Mom, are you hungry? Let’s go and make some breakfast.” The daughter helps her mom get showered and dressed and then takes her down to the kitchen. She makes toast and tea and while her mother eats, she goes back upstairs and cleans up the mess. Because the daughter remained calm, so did her mother.
“A” is for Accept
After assessing, it’s important to accept responsibility for whatever comes next. You are the one with a fully functioning brain. You are the one who has the ability to take control and create a positive outcome. If you expect someone with a brain disease to be responsible and to act as you might wish them to, you’re headed for trouble. I know. I’ve been there, and I never want to go back.
“A” is for Agree
The third in the triple “A” of BANGS is agree. Agree with everything.
“There’s a skunk in the room.” Why yes, there is – AGAIN. How do you suppose he got in here this time?
“You are a horrible, self-centered person who only thinks of herself!” I know Dad, I’m trying to change and I hope to get better with your help (said with sincerity not sarcasm).
The more you agree, the fewer opportunities for conflict will creep in and blow everything to bits. The more you put yourself in their shoes, the better. Is this easy? Nope. It’s mindblowingly difficult. But it works. I’ve done it myself, and I’ve seen others do it as well. It’s a helluva’ lot better than the alternative.
Don’t worry if you miss the mark multiple times like I did initially. Practice makes perfect. Here’s a two-minute clip about the triple “A” in BANGS:
Don’t want to end up in a “shoot-out” with a PWD? Use BANGS.