BE ON THEIR SIDE. If they are wrong, or if they are right it doesn’t matter because most of the time you are not going to convince them otherwise. This task can be more difficult depending on the setting. In a care facility sometimes you are dealing with issues between 2 residents. In a home setting it is the caregiver, YOU!
If “Opel” points out the window and says “Wow look at all that snow” and there is none, don’t say “There isn’t any snow out there it is summer,” just agree. What does it matter she is most likely going to forget in about 2 minutes when you head outside to sit in the sun!
People suffering with dementia already feel alone, they don’t understand that there brain is shrinking. The unfortunate part is we can’t see or predict how quickly the brain will deteriorate we just have to adjust their care to help them live there life as happily as possible.
I have seen all stages, from being forgetful to taking there last breaths. Everyday can be different and many days can be the same. There is no explanations or predictions, the disease will make all the decisions and decide what part of the brain to attack first.
In the middle stages of alzheimer’s, when I would visit my Grandma with my daughters, my Grandma would look at my daughters and say “Sorry I would love to visit but I have to go take care of Cassandra.” This was my oldest at the time, she was 8, my Grandma remembered her more around 2, she would look right at Cassandra and say she couldn’t visit because she had to go take care of her. By this point I had talked to my girls about Grandma having a disease that made her brain not work right. I would try to distract her so we could visit longer but if she insisted she had to go take care of Cassandra I would say ok and we would leave for a walk around the facility and then come back and visit with her for a while longer until she once again needed to “Go take care of Cassandra.” I am not sure how long this behavior lasted, but to me it felt like years. I wanted my Grandma to acknowledge my other 2 daughters, but she really never did. It was always “Cassandra”.
I could have handled these visits much differently and insisted my oldest was Cassandra and that she sit there and visit because Cassandra was right here and there was no one for her to go take care of. This would be taking the one thing away that made my Grandma feel productive What good would this have done? My Grandma would have either felt like I was making her look stupid, or think I was the crazy one, either way she would not have felt like I was on her side. So I was always on her side, sometimes I would say I think Cassandra is with her dad and you should be able to visit a little longer, sometimes she would agree, sometimes not. Telling her I was Cassandras Mom would always seem to confuse her, although she did recognize me as someone she loved and she still enjoyed visiting with the girls as did the other residents.
I experienced an incident between 2 residents the other day, one kicked the other and then the same lady preceded to attempt to coke her, I quickly grabbed to hand of the one being aggressive and walked with her out of the room all the while saying softly yes I saw her being mean and lets just get away from her, while all along it was the one I’m walking out of the room that was being aggressive, the other resident had done nothing, so far. Me being on her side even though she was in the wrong deescalated the situation quickly.
Caregivers need to continually try to put them selves in the shoes of the person with dementia when they are caring for them. If you are a close family member sometimes it can be more difficult because you have strong emotions for this person and it is hard to accept that they may not remember you or something very relevant in life. Remember it is not the person, it is the disease. Think out of the box.
Another example is your mother that you are caring for always insists she is at work, and wants to go home, well, she is home and you have told her this a hundred times, you are frustrated, you don’t know what to do. Stop! think for a minute. Why not say “Lets go home then,” get in the car and drive around for awhile, come back to the house and say, “Well we are home, I sure had a long day at work, how about you?” maybe it will work or maybe it will just distract her long enough to forget for a while.
Always being on their side can be difficult at times but in the end it is the easiest way to interact with your loved one or the one you are caring for. Making a difference in their life one smile at a time should be our mission when caring for those with dementia, and being on the same team as them makes it a lot easier.
Jodie Lawshe’ 4-9-2017