I am sitting here thinking about the role of empathy in dementia care.
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The caregiver begins to acquire empathy by asking how, why, what.
How is the person who is deeply forgetful feeling?
Why is the person who is deeply forgetful acting this way? What do they need?
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The only way the caregiver can come to understanding and then empathy is by looking at the world out of the eyes of the person who is living with Alzheimer's or the other types of dementia.
All to often, we spend our time telling others how we feel. We the caregivers.
We spend our time describing the actions of the deeply forgetful to others. Then relate how we feel.
The act of "venting" or "complaining" is negative. This negativity adds to our burden.
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On the other hand, when we begin to examine the words, actions, and acts of the deeply forgetful we slowly come to the understand that because of the changes in their brain they perceive the world differently at times then we, the caregivers, perceive the world.
Some caregivers come to believe that the person who is deeply forgetful is not the person they "knew". It does not seem apparent to them that the person they "know" is changing. This change is being caused by the effect of dementia on the brain.
This change is not being caused by any intentional acts on the part of the person living with Alzheimer's. This change is being caused by illness. Not because the person who is deeply forgetful has intentionally decided to change, and change for the worse.
The first step in effective caregiving is to acquire empathy based on how the person you are caring for perceives and views the world. How? Why? What?
The next step is the coming to an understanding that dementia is the culprit; not the person who is acting differently because of the effect of the dementia.
Empathy and understanding lead to compassion.
Compassion diffuses much of the burden a caregiver might feel. Leading to new, different, and more positive feelings.
It is at this point that we can turn our attention to our mission -- caring.
Caring for someone is never really easy. It is often trying, and often difficult.
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However, caring can be tremendously fulfilling. Emotionally and spiritually uplifting.
Empathy and compassion married with love make caregiving meaningful and joyful, not burdensome.
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Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR).
Original content the Alzheimer's Reading Room
Article from Alzheimer's Reading Room
Empathy the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Compassion a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate their suffering.
Happiness is a mental or emotional state of well being defined by positive emotions ranging from contentment to joy. Happy mental states also reflect judgement by a person about their overall well being.
Joy is a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. A heightened feeling of happiness.
Coping requires us to make our own conscious effort to solve personal and interpersonal problems. This allows us to minimize stress, reduce conflict, and to better understand our situation.
Dementia care is the art of looking after and providing for the needs of a person living with Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia.