“Combative Behavior” vs “Self Preservation”

Combative behavior is a common description for behaviors exhibited by some people with Alzheimer’s disease. Para professionals, professionals and family commonly use words like; combative, difficult, un-cooperative and disrespectful to describe behavior that they feel is inappropriate. With that in mind let’s think about this scenario from the perspective of a person with Alzheimer’s disease: […]


I share this story with a smile and a tear.

My mother always made the best lemon meringue pie.

My mother’s Alzheimer’s disease left her dealing with things in ways that did not always seem sensible to my dad.

My dad was her primary caregiver until her end of life. He always tried to keep her going in a positive manner. He brought her her favorite foods and thought that this would comfort her as it did him. However, in the last 6 months of her life her swallowing was starting to fail. The foods that once brought her comfort were not doing that any longer. This food now brought discomfort.

One night my dad asked my mom if she wanted lemon meringue pie. She said no. He got himself pie and my mom a piece as well. He just figured she didn’t understand what he asked.

She did.

What she also understood was that she said no and he didn’t listen, again.

When my dad didn’t listen to my mom in the past she would get mad and then she would deep clean something. Well she was mad.

She couldn’t walk anymore so she had to figure out how to do her deep cleaning without leaving her chair. Well, lemon meringue looks a lot like leather conditioner. So my mother took the meringue off the pie and proceeded to rub it into the arm of her leather recliner.

She was now deep cleaning. This is when I got the phone call. My father telling me I better get down here – now she is going nuts.

She wasn’t going nuts – she was doing what she always did when she was mad at my dad – deep clean. He just never realized it. I did.

I came in told her what a great job she was doing and that I would be right back. I returned with two towels, one to remove the meringue and the other to dry where the first towel left moisture. And of course to buff. No good leather conditioning ends without buffing.

We ended with the classic tada. My mother was laughing by the end. The pie was never eaten and that was ok. My mom did say she didn’t want pie.

Remember to CHEER your loved with diagnosis with dementia or specifically Alzheimer’s disease. You are there to make the situation fun and interactive do you must; Calm, Help, Embrace, Empower and Reminisce.

I also cheered my dad up by calming down the situation.

Please let me know if this helps you understand what a big part your approach and interactions have on your mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, husband and wife.

Thank you. Blessed be.

Maureen Pearce
Hudson Valley Aging at Home