Dec 18, 2013

Don't Fight Yourself, Fight Dementia

Am I going to allow Alzheimer's or a related dementia to control my life and how I think and feel?

By Bob DeMarco
+Alzheimer's Reading Room 

Don't Fight  Yourself, Fight Dementia

When you visit Alzheimer's or dementia support websites on the Internet you start to notice common themes. Caregivers that are new and inexperienced tend to register the same complaints and the same frustrations over and over.

Remarkably, on these sites the same problems and the same issues tend to go round and round in a circle.

There are common behaviors that many dementia patients evidence. These behaviors are often foreign to new caregivers so they view them as challenging.

It takes a while to come to the understanding that many of the behaviors that present with a diagnosis of Alzheimer's and dementia are "normal", they come with the disease.

However, they rarely seem normal to caregivers in the beginning.

It is not unusual for caregivers to feel frustrated, pressured, anxious, insecure, restless, or angry. 

These feelings and emotions come with the territory.

My first advice would be that when you start feeling disconcerted - identify the feeling.  Name it. Try to understand exactly what you are feeling. Take an inventory so to speak.

For example, say or think, "I am frustrated right now". Or, "I am angry right now".

Don't run away from your feelings or repress them, confront your feelings.

Instead of feeling confused or disoriented you will find that you feel more in control when you identify what it is your are feeling. Identification of the feeling(s) can be calming.

Overtime, you will come to understand what it is you are feeling, and eventually you will be able to identify the triggers that bring on these feelings.

Once you identify what you are feeling, and start to feel the calming come over you, you will then be ready to deal with the situations that are causing these feelings.

In other words, instead of allowing challenging behaviors that come with dementia to control you, you will be the one seeking solutions to these problems.

You really do get to decide.

Am I going to allow Alzheimer's or a related dementia to control my life and how I feel?

Or, am I going to take control, allow myself to feel, understand what it is I am feeling, and then develop ways to cope with the behaviors that are causing these feelings?

One of the first things I did was learn how to breath when I felt any or all of the disconcerting feeling I described above - frustrated, pressured, anxious, insecure, restless, or angry.

Take a deep breath in, and then let it out very slowly. About 4 times, in and out,  will be enough once you get enough practice.

As you are blowing out, imagine that you are blowing away the negative feeling.

You will in fact dismiss, and at the minimum reduce the negativity so it is controllable. You take control of your life instead of allowing Alzheimer's to take control of you.

Another thing I did was buy a bunch of cheap spiral notebooks.

I would write down what was happening immediately before a negative episode, write about the episode, define the challenging behavior, define my feelings, and define the resultant feelings and behaviors that my mother, Dotty, was evidencing.

By doing this I stopped fighting myself, and Dotty.

Instead I started to understand the challenging behaviors and what was causing them to happen. The triggers.

I then started developing plans on how I would stop and hoepfully eliminate these challenging episodes before they happened.

I decided to fight Alzheimer's, to fight dementia, and to stop fighting myself, and my mother.

I also noticed that I stopped complaining about the same things over and over.

Instead of blaming either dementia or Dotty, I instead embarked on a mission of caring and changing.

Yes, I changed the way things were, and I believe all of you that were with me and Dotty over the years would agree I did just that.

Well you can do it also.

Stopping banging your head against the wall, stop acting like a hamster on the wheel.

Instead, start taking control of your own emotions, define and understand them, and take control of life.

Once you start proactively confronting dementia you will start feeling good about yourself.

Here is the best part.

Once you start feeling good about yourself, your loved one living with dementia will start becoming kinder, gentler, and easier to handle.

Why not? You are their role model and lifeline.

Role model. Don't fight yourself, start caring proactively.

Don't be afraid to take control of your existance.

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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 4,600 articles. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room