Karen Cochran Beaulieu

Dear Karen,

My wife has always been easygoing and cooperative. She has shown signs of cognitive decline, and as it worsens, I am unpleasantly reminded of our battles raising teenagers years ago. I guess I show a bit of a stubborn streak from time to time, but she has become extremely stubborn and even rebellious at times. Should I go back to reading books on parenting?


Dear Reader,

Rebellion and stubbornness are common characteristics that can define both teenagers and dementia. Your insightful comparison is absolutely correct.

It is easy to understand why independence, something we all cherish, is high on the list of causes of rebellious behavior. In general, unwanted confrontations occur when our freedoms are threatened. “All about me” is a common thread for both age groups – they want to be heard, are passionate about their wants and needs, and determined to have their own way. 

Changes in brain structure are actually a key factor to stubborn and rebellious behaviors. Researchers note that connections between the neurons of the brain do not develop completely until a person’s age reaches the mid-20s. While teenagers’ brains are developing, the reverse is actually true for those with dementia. Their illness is caused by neurodegeneration, the damage and death of the brain’s neurons. 

Although we’ve probably all resorted to using those persuasive parenting words, “It’s for your own good” or “Because I said so,” we also know they rarely are acceptable to anyone kicking up their heels. So, whether you are parenting your child, your parent or your spouse, there will be times when a preventative plan may help.  

Never be aggressive with your agenda. This makes people more defensive, less cooperative and will bring out rebellious behaviors.  

Do you remember being promised a toy after going to the dentist or an ice cream cone after taking a bath? It’s OK to offer a reward after one has to do something that is undesirable. Your loved ones at any age will probably be more cooperative if they believe there is something to be gained from their discomfort. 

A few basic suggestions: Do more listening than talking, remain calm, honor and respect your person and be willing to compromise. Finally, allow me to remind you of the classic advice for all relationships, “choose your battles.” Let them win whenever possible. 

Share your questions, challenges and successes: momentsthatmatterkcb@gmail.com. Your submission may be published; however, all submissions will be answered.  Beaulieu, a resident of Sumter County, is the author of the book, “Moments that Matter; a roadmap for caregivers and their loved ones with memory loss.”

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