Join the Journey: Denial is Never a Good Thing | Guest columns

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I received an e-mail from a person who apparently regularly reads my articles and enjoys my “Memory Care Minutes” aired on three different radio stations. In this case, his concern was one of denial. He was caring for his grieving mother, but not only were his other siblings unwilling to help him, but they thought mom was fine and all of this behavior was just to get attention. How did “The Fonz” say it? “Bad-a-world!”

There are a number of reasons significant other people or their children deny the condition their loved one is in and none of them are a good idea. They can just avoid the topic hoping it will go away. This will not be the case. They won’t see the need for support from the loved one or their caregiver and that’s never good. And they will certainly not see the need for daily assistance.

I will give those who deny the benefit of the doubt and recommend that they take the time to learn about what dementia is, how it affects their loved one and their caregivers, and what they expect as the disease progresses. . There are a number of excellent books available that should be required reading for anyone in the world of dementia care. “The 36-Hour Day” is one, and my book, “Join The Journey: Care for The Alzheimer’s Caregiver” is another. It was very gratifying when this husband contacted me after reading my book. He was in the early stages of caring for his wife and as a result was on a steep learning curve. He told me that after reading my book, he bought a copy for each of his children. Why? So they could understand what he was going through as a caregiver, as well as what their mother was going through and would go through with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s dementia.

Once you understand the disease and its impact on your loved one, these aberrant behaviors make sense. At a recent conference, I reminded my audience that the number one thing their loved ones expect of them is to feel safe. “You are their security blanket and that’s why they follow you around the house and even into the bathroom when you want some private time.” Unsurprisingly, someone in the audience was heard saying… “that’s why he does that.”

If those who refuse to read won’t read books on the subject, see if you can get them to join you in a local Alzheimer’s disease support group. You will find yourself in a room with like-minded caregivers who will share their experiences and solutions to challenges you may face, including denial of a loved one.

Once you become a caregiver, your relationship will change. Now the kids are the parents in a complete role reversal, and not all kids are ready for it, regardless of age. There are over 10 million caregivers of people with dementia in this country alone. How many of them were put on earth to be caregivers? Truth be told, it’s not everyone’s gift. That being said, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be part of the caregiving solution. They don’t need to bathe or groom mom or dad, but they can stay with them while you go out for a date or a manicure/pedi. Likewise, they can shop, run errands, take out the trash every week, etc.

A caregiver girl approached me about her brother, who was in denial and helpless. In fact, when he came home, Mom avoided him. My advice was to get him on board or not leave him near Mom. Remember, we want them in their Happy Place.

Questions? Email me at repe@careforcaregivers.org. Join the journey.

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