“It’s hard to have a conversation with Mom. I try. But sometimes she just doesn’t respond like she used to. When she tries to talk to me I am not really sure what she is talking about sometimes. This dementia thing is really hard. I love mom and i want to connect but how??”
John is not alone in his feelings. This is a difficult disease for both the person who is afflicted and their family. Let’s face it, dementia 101 was not covered in school.
Join a Caregiver Support Group
By joining a caregiver support group John can discover how other families are handling these situations. He will learn both what may work and what may not. However, he will need to keep in mind that each disease process is different. As such the symptoms that his mom may manifest could be different from how someone else reacts.
Some people with dementia mostly suffer from memory loss. And others may also exhibit behavioral changes. That sweet little lady you once knew may not behave so nice any more. She may even say hurtful things to you and others. By attending a support group you will realize you are not the only one this is happening to. This can help you to to accept and not take the situation personally.
From the moment we are born we begin to reach for our independence. By age 2 being independent is strongly rooted in our behavior.
“ My granddaughter wants to do everything herself. Me, me , me! She shouts. From putting on her clothes to helping me bake ( cracking the eggs was quite a mess :-) She wants her independence.”
Fast forward to the teenage years. Wanting to be accepted as a grown up, as one who is respected. Throughout our lives we value our independence.
When someone has dementia they begin to lose a lot of their independence. At some point they are no longer able to drive and go where they want to and when they want to. And the loss is felt. As time goes on many more losses are experienced.
Security is put in place for safety reasons and suddenly they are no longer able to come and go from their own home as they want to. Someone with dementia may need help dressing and bathing losing even more independence.
How Can You Help?
Understanding and empathizing with this loss is the first step. The next step is to focus on what the person can still do.
Create a memory box of old photos and memorabilia. A son or daughter can sit down with Mom and go through the box reminiscing. This is something you can do over and over. Those long term memories may still be there. As such you can have conversations about the events in the box.
Create a raised vegetable garden where the two of you can sit and tend to vegetables or flowers. Mom could help to pick the vegetables to use in a salad or flowers for a table bouquet.
Ask Mom to put the napkins on the table. If she is able to get her to set the table also. Don’t worry if everything is not in the proper place. What matters is that she feels useful and needed. We all need to have a purpose.
Was dad a musician when he was younger? Did he play the guitar or the trombone? You may be surprised to discover that even though he can no longer talk to you he can still make music. Give it a try and see what happens.
Play old songs from the past and dance or sing together.
When conversing ask yes or no questions rather than open ended ones. These tend to be overwhelming.
Don’t try to fill in the silence. Allow your parent plenty of time to respond.
Find topics that are easy to talk about like lunch or the weather. Avoid deep topics like politics or the problems you are having with your teenage son.
If visiting your parent in a memory care facility, remember quality trumps quantity every time. Rushing in after work every day because it is your duty or you feel guilty will not serve either of you. Showing up for a long lunch every Wednesday and really enjoying your time together will be a lot more beneficial.
Still feel guilty? Write a card for each day you will not be there. Just a few sentences will do. Ask the staff to give one to mom each day. I guarantee it will brighten her day. Chances are she will carry it around and show it to everyone. Such a little thing that can have a huge impact.
Additionally ask the staff to send you a picture or a video of what she is doing that day. This will help you to realize that she is safe and happy.
This disease is not an easy one by any means. However when you begin to allow yourself to let go and just go with the flow you may find some hidden gems in the situation. The Light Heart Staff is here to help the whole family.
Pat Mack has been helping families make the right decisions to care for someone they love since 1997. Email Her Today for more information.
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