Mar 26, 2017

How to Reunite and Reconnect with a Person Living with Dementia

When Alzheimer's strikes it comes with an all encompassing confusion on the part of the Alzheimer's caregiver and the person living with Alzheimer's or a related dementia.


Learning how to communicate and connect with a person living with dementia can be difficult. Here is how I did it.

Reunite: come together or cause to come together again after a period of separation or disunity.

When Alzheimer's strikes it comes with an all encompassing confusion on the part of the Alzheimer's caregiver and the person living with Alzheimer's or a related dementia.

I call this confusion discombobulation. Discombobulate: to confuse or disconcert; upset; frustrate.


By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

When two persons know each other all, or a major fraction, of their lives they form an intersection. This intersection encompasses all of their shared experiences, feelings, and emotions. The overlap and interconnection of their lives.

It looks something like this

How to Reunite with a Person Living with Dementia

the overlap of two circles. The part where the two circles intersect is the intersection of their lives.

Alzheimer's disease often causes the two circles to separate . It looks something like this

How to Reunite with a Person Living with Dementia

In other words, the dynamic between two people has changed dramatically. They are now separated.

In this illustration one person has changed - the person living with Alzheimer's. The other person, the caregiver, remains the same. It only stands to reason that the caregiver will try to continue on in life in the same way they always have. They have not changed.

This means the caregiver will try to deal with the person who is deeply forgetful in the way they always have. Why not, it worked in the past. But it doesn't work now.



In fact, this leads to cognitive dissonance.

When a person feels cognitive dissonance they feel excessive mental stress and discomfort. 


The caregiver feels real emotional and physical discomfort that is psychological in nature.

At times, it seems as if the person living with Alzheimer's and the caregiver hold completely opposite and contradictory beliefs. They now view the world differently.


Quite simply, the person living with dementia starts to engage in actions that are completely foreign to us, hard to comprehend, and somewhat impossible to understand (at first).

When you reach a point of cognitive dissonance as a caregiver you are ready to explode. By this point you have tried to explain to the person living with Alzheimer's that what they are doing or saying is wrong.

But instead of cooperating or agreeing with you, they usually do the exact opposite. They engage in a behavior or use words that make you explode in frustration and sometimes anger.


Of course, the caregiver often regrets their actions or use of words and becomes greatly saddened, or worse, sometimes depressed.

I learned there is only one effective way to break this cycle. 

I started looking at the world from the perspective and viewpoint of the person living with dementia. I started looking at the world from my mother's perspective.


I tried to look at the world from her eyes, not from my eyes. I reversed the paradigm.


Why did I do that?

No matter how hard I tried to operate effectively in the world I knew before Alzheimer's it didn't work.

I finally said to myself, in my head, I am going into this new place and I am going to learn how to deal with my mother, Dotty, effectively.


I'm going to learn how to understand her, and I am going to figure out how to regain her trust.

So, when necessary, I took one giant step to the left and stepped right into Alzheimer's World.

In the World, I left behind all the frustration, angst, and discombobulation (well most of it anyway); and amazingly, everything my mother did, all the crazy stuff, started to make sense.

Her brain was working differently. So I came to a very simple conclusion, I had to rewire my brain to match up with hers.


When I stepped into Alzheimer's World I didn't leave everything behind. I took all of my education and life experiences with me.

How to Get Answers To Your Questions About Alzheimer's and Dementia Care

I left behind all the stigma and brainwashing that comes with a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia.

I rediscovered my mother and we began to live our life in way that I could never imagined.

I actually describe this journey as the

Path from Burden to Joy.

Remember the images of the circles up above? My mother and I did reconnect in a way that I could never have imagined. It looked like this. You can do it too.

Related Content

How to Adapt the Caregiver Brain to Alzheimer's and Dementia

How the Loss of Memory Works in Alzheimer’s, and How Understanding This Could Help You

Rewiring My Brain and Stepping into Alzheimer's World

How Alzheimer's and Dementia Impact Memory and the Brain

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Alzheimer's Reading Room

"Bob DeMarco knows what he's talking about. Not only was he the primary caregiver for his mother with Alzheimer's, but he put in the time and dedication it took to learn more about dementia. It's clear that this lit a fire in him, and it's a fire that you can't find elsewhere on the Web. 
Alzheimer's Reading Room is an online library on dementia care. If you need to know about it, you'll find it here." 
- Rachael Wonderlin, author of "When Someone You Know is Living in a Dementia Care Community" and founder of the blog, Dementia By Day.