I took care of my mother who lived with dementia for 8 and a half years. 3,112 days.
By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room
I understand how Alzheimer's caregiver feel. I was one.As part of learning how to communicate more effectively with my mom,
I invented the greatest hug ever.
This hug is not limited to persons living with dementia; in fact, it works with everyone and will improve your life.
If you don't touch your loved one who will?
Are you hugging someone you care about at least 3 times a day? 3 times you ask? I stumbled on to this. There is scientific evidence that getting hugged 3 times a day reduces anxiety and stress. It also raises your self concept - how you feel about yourself. It makes you think and feel more positive about yourself, and more positive about the world around you.
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Here is how it happened to me, and how I invented the greatest hug ever.
Here is how you do it.
- Start the hug. Take your left hand, spread it out wide and put it on the back of your loved one. You are going to place your hand over the area where there heart is. Upper back in the middle.
- Take your right hand and place on the back of their head. Like you would if you were holding a baby.
- Cling on a little bit. Take a few deep breaths. Be patient, let yourself relax. If you are a caregiver you might actually find the stress coming out. I did.
- This is not a race - take your time.
- Now, start moving your left hand, the one on the back, around in a little circle, more or less like you are rubbing the back.
- Breath ... Breath ... Breath ... Relax ... Relax ... Relax. Breath in and out.
- Take you time. It might seem like a long time but it really is going to amount to 30 seconds or so. You have something better to do? Probably not.
- This hug works best right after someone wakes up. And, right before they go to bed (sleep). That is 2 hugs, you need at least 3 each day.
- Don't limit yourself. Each hug, starting right now, has a cumulative effect. It just gets better and better. This is also very good for your brain. You have a brain don't you? Start using your brain.
I was constantly trying to improve my early morning, first interaction of they day with Dotty. I wanted to make her feel safe, secure, and attached to the world.
It finally worked better than I could have ever expected.
One morning Dotty all of a sudden clinged on to me. She felt really warm by the way. Out of the clear blue sky Dotty says, Bobby you are a good boy, you take really good care of me.
1. To hold fast or adhere to something, as by grasping, sticking, or embracing.
2. To remain close; resist separation: Cling together.
3. To remain emotionally attached.
I would have to say that hug was one of the greatest moments of my life.
You rarely get that kind of expression of feeling and emotion from an Alzheimer's patient. And yes, I can still remember it clearly. Especially the part of how warm Dotty felt.
Want to change your life?
Married, living with someone you really care about, or are you caring for someone living with dementia?
Start giving them the greatest hug in the world first thing in the morning, and last thing at night. You can also add in a few little words while hugging - try whispering them.
You do have to practice if you want to get good at it. Try it for the next 19 days. On the 20th day you will start to feel the improvement in your relationship. Practice makes perfect.
Listen up. I am 100 percent certain this will change your life. You will feel less anxiety, less stress, and better about yourself. Your life will improve and so will your happiness.
It's all cumulative and its all about using your brain effectively to improve your life.
I am going to start including this when I have speaking engagement; or, train dementia professionals. I wonder if I can give 50 or 400 hugs at a conference. 400? Hmm, that would take like 200 minutes. Maybe not.
Wait, maybe I could get a booth. Ask for a $1 a hug and donate it to charity. My brain never stops working.
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I'll have to start working on the long distance hug next.
Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR). Bob is a recognized writer, speaker, and influencer in the Alzheimer's and Dementia Community worldwide.
The Alzheimer's Reading Room contains more than 5,000 articles and has been published daily since July, 2009.
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