Care Partnering, Challenges & Solutions, Tips, tools & skills

6 reasons care partners fight with their loved ones

44526233 - argument of senior couple is no joke

“I wonder why we feel such a strong need to make them see reality?” Jenny mused during our coaching session. “I used to tell myself every morning: ‘today I will NOT argue with Dad or try to make him see reality, and yet every day I’d eventually crack.’”

Jenny had just finished reading “never, never argue is the ‘N’ in BANGS,” and was doing some self-examination. We were exploring ways she might behave differently to reduce the stress she was experiencing as a care partner to her mother.

“Like your post said, who the hell cares if his hair was brown or black!!? Yet I waged such an internal battle with myself. ‘Don’t argue!’ I would say to myself and twenty minutes later I would lose my patience and try to get him to see reality – not HIS reality, MY reality!”

Jenny had lost her father to dementia and was caring for her Mom, who also had the disease.

“Now that Dad is gone,” she said. “I’m pretty good with Mom. I don’t want to repeat the mistakes I made with Dad. But I still ‘crack’ and insist she’s mistaken from time to time, even though I know it doesn’t work.”

Jenny’s words caused me to do some reflection of my own after our Skype call. Sometimes it seems we can’t help arguing, even when we know it’s ineffective and can escalate situations that we could easily defuse if we had our wits about us.  When things get “pear shaped,” we sometimes blow up and then feel guilty afterward about losing control.

Here are some of the factors that may be at play when normally calm care partners lose their cool and forget the “never never argue” dementia golden rule:

1) ego

Ego is how we see ourselves. It’s the part of us that knows we are important and able, that we matter, that we count. Ego wants us to be right, maybe even more so when we know the other person is clearly and unequivocally wrong! Letting go of our own ego to bolster someone else’s isn’t easy, but it can work wonders in helping a loved one who lives with dementia reaffirm their own selfhood.

2) exhaustion

Being a caregiver, particularly to someone who lives with dementia, is often physically, emotionally and psychologically draining. Many care partners lack proper support, have little respite and become so worn out they are unable to function properly at even a basic level. It’s virtually impossible to behave rationally when one’s energetic reserves are completely drained.  Put the oxygen on yourself first; get some rest.

3) frustration

Never-ending and seemingly insurmountable challenges of all shapes and sizes, unfixable situations, insoluble problems, constant repetition, being on the receiving end of abuse from various quarters – all of these result in levels of frustration that are hard to imagine unless you’ve lived them. Sometimes that frustration gets the best of us and we snap.

4) getting stuck in unproductive patterns

We all know the cliché “it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks.” Although an increasing number of young people are being drafted into caregiving roles, a far greater number of us are longer in the tooth and have likely engaged with our care partners in certain ways for a lifetime.  We’ve got “baggage.” It’s hard to break old patterns, and to employ new tricks that deliver better results.

5) lack of knowledge

Alzheimer’s and other dementias are relatively new diseases. Until recently, behavioural expressions such as aggression were believed to be caused exclusively by the disease. Now we know behavioural expressions are more often than not responses to environmental factors and the way we interact with people who live with dementia.  With that understanding, we have begun to develop new tools and techniques that enable us to engage more effectively with people who live with dementia. But not everyone is aware of those techniques, and you can’t use tools you don’t know about.

6) lack of practice

Once we’ve been introduced to more effective behavioural tools, techniques and skills, it takes time to master them. Practice makes perfect as they say. But it’s hard to practice when we’re exhausted, frustrated, stuck in old patterns and not able to let go of our ego!

The next time you find yourself arguing with someone who lives with dementia, it may be helpful to take a step back and ask yourself what’s going on. Identifying what lies behind your behaviour is a first step toward changing it and creating a calmer and more peaceful environment for everyone. Awareness may also help you to stop feeling guilty and/or beating yourself up for falling into the arguing trap. We’re only human; we need to give ourselves a break!

Remember all that ❤

#mc_embed_signup{background:#fff; clear:left; font:14px Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; }
/* Add your own MailChimp form style overrides in your site stylesheet or in this style block.
We recommend moving this block and the preceding CSS link to the HEAD of your HTML file. */

Subscribe to MAS now & get 5 free PDFs & a page of welcome links:

Email Address

Take my short survey on behaviour here.

Copyright: gpointstudio / 123RF Stock Photo

Care Partnering, Teepa Snow, Tips, tools & skills, Videos

10+ smart dance tips for dementia care partners

Many of the challenges care partners face are not unique. They are similar to those we face daily in a variety of disciplines as well as in day-to-day living. This means potential solutions to problems are everywhere. Tips, tools and ideas abound. Identifying and applying them to caring can help make our work less stressful and more joyful.

When I stumbled upon Be a Smart Dancer: 10 Qualities of Smart Dancers on Ballet Shoes & Bobby Pins, I was struck by how the qualities of “smart” dancers might apply equally to care partners. I tweaked some of the actions and offer them here in condensed form as “10 smart dance tips for better dementia care.”


1) relate to space

Understand that you dance in a three-dimensional world. Smart dancers know about body directions and how they relate to space. Being spatially aware means you know how to use your space, how to travel upstage, downstage, stage right and stage left. You know not to stand too close to other dancers. You understand how a combination (of steps and moves) will travel so that you can properly set up, and not run out of room before being able to finish the combination. Spatially aware dancers don’t collide with other dancers or get in their way.

Hold space and make space for yourself, your care partner and others around you.


2) stay focused

Smart dancers know how to focus and find their centers–even on bad days. Through exhaustion and frustration, smart dancers pull it together under pressure. They are ready for anything at any moment. If a choreographer needs them to perform a role because someone is injured, they are ready. They push are able to push the chaos away and focus on the current space and time. Smart dancers know how to override stresses to get the job done.

When all hell breaks loose, find a way to come back to center. The triple “A”s in BANGS will help.


3) identify patterns

Smart dancers know the importance of identifying patterns. This helps them communicate and notate movement. When you can identify which part of the pattern you’re discussing, it helps other dancers know where in time and space you are.

Look for patterns in behaviour–your own, your care partner’s and those of others around you. Identifying patters helps determine cause and effect and creates the possibility for change.


4) tap into rhythm

The more you understand music and can hear rhythms inside of rhythms the more detailed, flowing and natural your dancing will become.

Even chaos has rhythm. Listen for it. Tune into it. Move with it.


5) observe

Pick up on details without being told.  Smart dancers watch with the intention to digest information and commit it to memory.

Keep your eyes and ears open. Be a dementia care detective.


6) anticipate

Think ahead so you are not in the way. Anticipation is also useful when preparing for auditions and rehearsals. You never know what is going to happen or what you will be asked to do, so you have to prepare for everything.

Understanding that “anything can happen” (and it usually does!), is an extraordinary mindfulness tool that helps caregivers be flexible and let go.


7) make connections

Smart dancers also know the dance world is small, and they know how to interact with different people in order to stay successful. Making connections and understanding how their bodies work and how their discipline works is what keeps them on their toes.

You are not alone. Connect with other care partners. Being isolated is lonely, depressing and counterproductive. Reach out!


8) develop self awareness

Smart dancers know themselves and their weaknesses. Knowing how to take care of yourself is important. Understanding how to prevent injuries or care for injuries when they occur will get you back dancing faster.

Put the oxygen on yourself first. Take breaks. Replenish. Re-energize. Realize you are not a superhero.


9) use diverse techniques

Smart dancers are open to learning different techniques, they actively seek out innovation and educate themselves on what is new and different in the world of dance.

Keep adding to your care partner toolbox. I highly recommend the work of Teepa Snow, Dr. Allen Power, and Naomi Feil. When one tool doesn’t work, try another.


10) become single minded

Smart dances understand the responsibility that falls on their shoulders to dance and dance well; to train and train hard.

Take your responsibility seriously. Do the best you can.


I would add one more important action to this list:

11) experience the joy of dance

I think it’s probably fair to say there are few dancers who hate dancing. Smart dancers LOVE what they do. Yes, it’s hard work. Yes, it takes practice. Yes, there are defeats as well as victories. Dancers soar; they also stumble and fall. We all do.

Look for the joy.


  1. 10 things to remember when you interact with people who forget
  2. 10 ways to use improv to improve life with alzheimers
  3. 10 tips to make the most of music in dementia care
  4. 10 things not so say to grieving mary missy taylor
  5. 10+ Teepa Snow videos on dementia-basics
  6. 10 normal ways care partners express grief
  7. 10 quick tips to help you tango not tangle
  8. 10 ways to calm a dementia care crisis
  9. 10 tips to deal with hallucinations
  10. 10 poems i didn’t want to write


More dance-inspired posts here.

Subscribe to my updates here.

Image copyright: mitch / 123RF Stock Photo

Care Partnering, Teepa Snow, Tips, tools & skills, Videos

10 quick tips to help you tango not tangle

Teepa Snow_ tango don't tangle

“If you want to change the dance, you’ve got to change the steps,” is a great coaching quote I learned way back when, and the most important part of the lesson is that the steps you must change are your own.

Here are 10 dance-inspired tips to help you tango instead of tangle with your dementia care partner:

  1. Let them lead
  2. Play music they like
  3. Look into their eyes
  4. Adjust your steps to fit theirs
  5. Take their hand
  6. Don’t hold on too tight
  7. Be light on your feet
  8. Guide only if and when required
  9. Relax and smile
  10. Twirl occasionally, just for fun

Teepa thin banner

Additional inspiration on the same theme with renowned Hollywood lindy hop and jitterbg dancer Jean Veloz at her 90th birthday party in 2014 (she makes it look so easy):


Here’s Veloz in a similar number in her “younger” days:




7 dementia care basics from Teepa Snow

5 top dementia care tips from Teepa Snow

10 ways to calm a dementia care crisis

13 expert tips to help with “I want to go home”

10 tips to deal with hallucinations

Hand Under Hand (TM) demo

More dance-inspired posts here.

Teepa Snow’s videos are available on Amazon here.

Subscribe to my updates here.