What to do when adults with dementia overfeed or hit their animals?
It’s no use pretending that this isn’t an issue, because it is. One of the things that alerted me to my mother and her decline was how much she’d begun to start feeding my lab. As mum lived with me before her decline, my dog was happy with her company, and although not an animal lover, she’d let her out to the garden for the toilet and look after her when we were away.
I’d come home from a holiday many years ago, to find my dog had ballooned. She’d used up all the dog food I’d left within a few days, and kept asking my brother to buy more. He didn’t realise the dog had cottoned onto pestering her for food and she’d happily feed my gluttonous lab whenever the dog demanded it. I’ve no idea how much food the dog actually ate, but it took nearly six months to get the weight down a bit.
I’ve heard lots about families complaining about how their animals are being overfed, treated badly, and not exercised. Instead of whingeing, the families need to step up and do something about it. Neither children nor animals should be subject to detrimental behaviour. If someone is over feeding a dog, stop the access to food, or remove the dog to another room. If someone hits an animal, make sure they are apart at all times. A scared animal may bite, then be put down by lack of care of the families involved.
Why do people constantly ask about this?
1 – They are hoping for some magic pill or suggestion that will take away the dementia and the behaviours.
2 – They’re too lazy to take control.
3 – They have no experience of animals
I’ve heard people say that we should put our elders into punishment mode if they don’t follow the rules we want them to. That mindset tells me they know little about dementia.
They’re not toddlers you can make sit on the naughty step, or tell they won’t get sweets later in the day if they hit the cat. Someone with advancing dementia won’t remember you told them they won’t get sweets later in the day, and to be frank, it’s insulting. They’re adults, and they don’t need to be treated like children.
- Children will learn, adapt and grow.
- The adult with dementia, at this stage, will only go in the opposite direction to the toddler. They cannot learn and adapt.
It’s up to YOU to take control. If it means locking food away so that the animals can’t be fed too much extra, YOU have to do it. Telling our suffering adults repeatedly, is a waste of breath. If it hasn’t worked so far, it isn’t going to work in the future. If someone is hitting an animal, removing the elder or the animal so they can’t see each other, is the only way for this to work. Keep them in separate rooms, and perhaps give the animal a safe place when they are in the same room, so the elder can’t get at them. Perhaps there is a use for a crate in the same room as an adult with dementia.
I don’t like crates for animals, but I used to use a child play pen to let my dog get some sleep when my kids were little. Everyone used to think the play pen was for the kids, but the dog loved it in there. She had her food and water, and would bark to get out when she wanted the loo, or to mingle.
There will never be an easy answer to this one, as animals are fabulous, but they need protected every bit as much as a child in the home.