Join the Adventure: Concrete Strategies for Caring for Your Loved One | Guest columns

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As a long-time speaker on the topic of Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease, I always make it a point to bring materials for my guests to refer to later. As valuable as my information is, I don’t flatter myself that everyone will remember everything I share with them. Furthermore, it also gives them the opportunity to pass on information to other people who might also need to better understand what is going on with their loved one with dementia.

One of my most popular pieces is my “Real Life Strategies for Dementia Care”. That’s valuable information, if I do say so myself, and that’s why I’m sharing it in this month’s episode.

Being reasonable, rational and logical will only get you into trouble. Their world makes perfect sense to them as they see it, so what we may consider inappropriate behavior is not a problem for them. You can’t reason with someone who has lost the ability to reason or whose brain has lost its boss.

They don’t need to be grounded in reality. When your loved one asks where her late husband is, reminding her that he died four years ago isn’t the best idea. Do you really want them to mourn the loss of a soul mate or worse a child every time the subject comes up?

The perfect helper does not exist. If you are the primary caregiver, God bless you. Know that you are entitled to your moments, so remember to forgive yourself and the loved one you are caring for.

Therapeutic lying reduces stress. Where is the husband who died? On a business trip or playing golf. During a meeting. Make sure they make sense though. If he’s never played golf, you might have a problem. The good news is that you may come across another “fiblet” a few minutes later.

Don’t make deals. I heard a girl ask dad to agree not to walk in the snow because he would fall and get hurt. He agreed and 10 minutes after she left he was out just to prove to himself and her that he could do it. They won’t remember the terms or the mission, so don’t bother.

Their doctors must be educated by you. I share this a lot. Keep a journal of their behaviors and any changes that have occurred. Has their ability to communicate deteriorated? Are they wandering now? Are you not eating well? You are around them everyday, their doctor is not. When you meet with their doctor, do not share the new information in front of your loved one because they will deny it and wonder why you are saying these things about them.

You can’t do it yourself, so accept help. Use your family and friends to help you with care, shopping, appointments, etc. It is easier to accept help than to ask for it.

Don’t overestimate or underestimate what they can do. It’s easier for us to “just do it” than to wait for them, but don’t take away those things that keep them somewhat independent. Feed them and they forget how to feed themselves. The other party is asking too much of them, which can lead to turmoil and frustration. Find a balance and be aware of changes in their abilities.

Say, don’t ask. “We’re putting on our coats now because it’s cold outside.” “We have your favorite meatloaf for dinner tonight” not “do you want meatloaf for dinner”. “Time to take your pills to stay healthy” rather than “do you want to take your meds now?”

Be proactive about what the next step might be. Help with life? Dedicated memory care? A qualified retirement home? You don’t want to approach this stage in crisis mode. Do your homework now!

Questions? Email me at repe@careforcaregivers.org.

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