Why is “locus of control” an important and a timely issue for persons with dementia? Unfortunately, most of what is known to date about the impact of locus of control for persons with dementia is anecdotal and lacking in scientific research methods.
Locus of control for persons with dementia
WHERE IS MY TEA??!!!!
Parents should be mindful that, even though teams are implementing stringent concussion management policies, players often hide their concussions so that they can stay on the playing field. Author: Michael Powers
Muriel sits in her wheelchair feeling the warmth on her shoulders of the early morning sunshine streaming through the kitchen window. Her face has a starched look of mingled confusion and despair. Every morning Muriel sits here waiting for her care partner to arrive and fix her cup of tea. This morning is no different.
But Muriel does not have much patience when it comes to waiting. Muriel is blind and has been diagnosed with early stage dementia. When she has to wait even a short time for anything, this seems to set off an angry button in her brain. In fact, she is beginning to feel distressed right now.
“Good morning Muriel, I am here finally,” says her care partner, Ruth, as she runs in the kitchen door, puffing and out of breath. “I am sorry to be so late, I missed my bus, and then I stopped on the way to get you these nice flowers,” smiles Ruth, holding up the daisies for Muriel to smell.
Muriel is not amused. She does not smile at the smell of the daisies, rather states, “What is the matter with you? Where is my tea? I always have my tea at 7:30 AM. It is nearly 9 AM and I have not had even a sip of tea. If you cannot do anything right, maybe just take your silly flowers and go away.” Muriel is beginning to become agitated and her voice is getting louder.
“Please let me put these flowers in a vase, and then I will make your tea for you,” replies Ruth.
“I already told you I do not want your silly flowers. WHERE IS MY TEA? DO YOU NOT SPEAK ENGLISH?” Muriel is now shouting.
“I understand,” says Ruth sadly, “I will do as you wish.”
“UNDERSTAND! UNDERSTAND! UNDERSTAND! HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY UNDERSTAND?” screams Muriel. Her nostrils are flaring and her arms are reaching as though to pull her hair out root by root. “You do NOT know what I am going through. I have lost my home, I have lost my husband, my children have all moved away, I have lost my vision, and now I am losing my mind. And you tell me you understand. GET OUT! GET OUT! I TELL YOU, GO AWAY AND LEAVE ME ALONE!!” Muriel is red in the face as she is screaming. The tea has taken on secondary importance.
Ruth leaves the room; Muriel is left alone weeping.
Significance of “locus of control” for persons with dementia.
Why is this a timely issue for Muriel and other persons with dementia? Unfortunately, most of what is known to date about the impact of locus of control for persons with dementia is anecdotal and lacking in scientific research methods.
Locus of control refers to the attributions individuals make regarding outcomes of personal consequence (Rotter, 1966). Individuals with internal locus of control believe their behavior influences outcomes pertinent to them, while individuals with external locus of control feel that such outcomes are unpredictable or a function of chance. Rotter proposed that locus of control, results from a person’s broad expectancy of the world.
Muriel has dementia; she may no longer have persistence of memory of her earlier experiences with the world. For this reason she is constantly trying to make sense of her world. She is engaged in attaching meaning to what is happening around her. If Muriel has developed internal coping strategies, which allow her to understand her environment and deal with inevitable changes occurring around her, she will then be empowered to handle any upsets or changes in schedule.
In the above situation, Muriel only knows that she is without her cup of tea. The one person in her environment, Ruth, who is responsible for delivering this to Muriel, has let her down. Muriel feels she must be able to control her environment and all those persons in it (external locus of control).
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Rotter, J. (1966). Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement. Psychological Monographs, 80 (Whole No. 609).