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Mom Keeps Swearing



"My mother has become a bit offensive. This little lady would have washed my mouth out with a bar of soap if I swore like she is doing now. It's rather embarrassing to be with her in public when she curses so loudly and disruptively. I have told her to watch what she says, but sometimes she turns on me. It is really difficult to predict when these outbursts will happen, which means fewer outings for Mom. Do you have any recommendations for me to deal with Mom’s foul mouth?" - READER



Elderly individuals who begin swearing when they previously did not are signaling possible signs of dementia. I am going to assume she already has a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s and you are seeking suggestions to manage her behavior. If she has not been diagnosed, a visit to her doctor is needed.

First, it is important for you to understand that your mother‘s brain is changing, and her behavior is neither deliberate nor meant to offend anyone. Individuals with dementia are dealing with a brain that does not always recognize once-familiar people or places. Tasks that were simple are now much harder to accomplish. She has likely lost the mental control that prevents her from saying everything that comes into her mind. She may have trouble choosing the right words, resorting to swearing. This is very common with dementia. She is coping with a limited brain, and it is quite frustrating to do that. 

There are things you can do to make being with her more comfortable.

  • The first thing you should do is take note of what exactly triggers her swearing. It likely occurs when she becomes frustrated, even over something that may seem insignificant or to you. Once you can pinpoint when she tends to let loose, you will be able to better prepare for and avoid those situations.
  • Make sure that you allow extra time to do almost everything. Shopping, eating out, moving from one place to another all may take twice as long as before.
  • When you are with your mother, avoid arguing about what is going on around you. While she may be wrong and using flawed logic, remember that her brain is not thinking clearly.
  • For the times that mother simply “goes off” and makes you uncomfortable in the presence of others, I recommend having an exit strategy in mind. Remain calm and speak in a quiet voice, which will be more calming for her than matching her level of intensity. While others may stare, your calm demeanor and kindness will shine through, and smart bystanders will understand. You could try wearing an Alzheimer’s bracelet that you point to after making eye contact with puzzled strangers when an explanation cannot be provided.

Your mother is fortunate to have you, and it is important to remember that many people experience this exact same situation as caregivers. You are not alone.

I wish you patience and perseverance on this journey with your mother.

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