Apr 20, 2015

Attachment and Connectedness in Dementia Care

Caregivers often feel like they are failing to connect with  their loved one living with dementia. I know what this feels like because it happened to me.

Attachment and Connectedness in Dementia Care - Alzheimer's Reading Room

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

In the beginning my mother would say almost daily -

I don't want you here, I can take care of myself, Get Out!

This of course was very hurtful to me. How could a person that I was taking care of 24 hours a day, 7 days a week tell me to get out?

This was clearly a disconnect.

My mother didn't know she needed me, and no matter how hard I tried to explain why she did, it always ended badly.

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Like most early on caregivers I found myself trying to explain to my mother the errors in her thinking. The harder I tried the worse I made it.

The most frequent result would be my mother going off to her bedroom and refusing to speak to me.

I would wait a while and then try and explain and the result was always the same - it didn't help.

Eventually I started thinking about how my mother was feeling; instead of, focusing on how I was feeling.

This process of focusing on her behavior and her feelings finally resulted in a breakthrough. A caregiving break through.

It finally dawned on me that what my mother really needed was greater reassurance and less words. Words she really couldn't understand and assimilate.

These lead me to a entire new set of ideas which I put into practice one by one.

The first was the role of reassurance in dementia care. What does reassurance mean?
Reassurance, to Reassure:
  • to make someone feel less afraid, upset, or doubtful.
  • to restore to confidence.
  • to relieve someone of anxiety.
Synonyms: assure, cheer, console, comfort, solace, soothe.
I explained my understanding of the role of reassurance in this article -

The Role of Reassurance in Dementia Care

I soon realized that Touch was an important part of reassurance.
One of the biggest challenges that Alzheimer's Caregivers face is how to communicate effectively with someone living with Alzheimer's disease. This challenge is particularly difficult when a person living with Alzheimer's becomes nasty and mean.
This article explains what I was thinking on this issue.

Alzheimer's Communication Tip -- Touching Foreheads and Kindness

Over time I finally realized that using too many words only confused my mother and often lead to her being anxious, confused and angry.
In Alzheimer's World if you use too many words all you are really saying is Blah, Blah, Blah - Blah Blah.

An Alzheimer's Communication Tip - No More Blah Blah Blah

The bottom line as I see it. Instead of making it all about you, start looking at the world from the view of the person living with dementia. As a result of Alzheimer's or a related dementia they see and hear things differently than we do.

Their perception of our words and actions are often quite different that we might be thinking.

If we "tweak" our behavior just a bit we should find that they become kinder, and gentler, and more joyful to be around.

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Bob DeMarco  is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR). Bob is a recognized expert, writer, speaker, and influencer in the Alzheimer's and Dementia Community worldwide. The ARR Knowledge Base contains more than 4,900 articles and 368,000 links. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

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