Sep 15, 2017

Dementia Care, There is No Place Like Home

For a person living with dementia "there is no place like home".

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

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A person living with Alzheimer's disease can hear you and even respond to you.

What they don't do well is remember what you just said.

I grappled with this problem for several years as I was constructing my own understanding of how Dotty was thinking (or not thinking) and feeling.

In order to adjust, I invented a place called -- Alzheimer's World.

This is where I went to communicate most effectively with Dotty.

In Alzheimer's World you listen closely to what a person living with dementia is saying. You pay close attention to the look on their face. You are looking for clues, cues actually, that will tell you how they are feeling.

For example, when a person living with Alzheimer's says, I want to go home, what are they saying?

Before you answer let me ask you a few questions? What were you doing and what was the person living with Alzheimer's doing right before they said, I want to go home?

Where they being left alone? In other words, left alone or being ignored? Were you talking with or engaging with another person while the person living with dementia was being ignored?

What did the face of the person asking to go home look like? Dull, blank, confused, do they have that I really don't know where I am look on their face?

How do you react when your loved one asks to go home?

Do you try to explain to them they are home, or if out, that they can't go home right now?

Or, do you listen and realize they want to go home to a place they lived earlier in their life. Their happy place, a place where they felt secure, and surrounded by people they knew.

If a person living with dementia is at home, and asks to go home to a place they have not lived in for many years, like the home they lived in as a kid,

Like they want to go home? Like they want to get away from you and go home?

Or, are they likely feeling insecure, or confused about the current circumstance there are in?

I learned in Alzheimer's World that the only thing that works effectively most of the time with a person living with dementia is

Instead of telling a person living with dementia you are home, or we can't go home right now try something like this.

Okay we will go home, but for right now will you stay here with me?

Before this conversation starts you will put your arm around the person living with dementia, put your head on their head - basically attaching yourself to them and forming one person - and then speak in low, warm, soft, reassuring voice.

In fact, as those that have made it Alzheimer's World have learned (and can tell you) constant reassurance over and over each day has a cumulative effect of making the person living with Alzheimer's kinder, and gentler.

The cumulative effect of reassurance in dementia care helps the Alzheimer's patient to feel more secure, safer, and more trusting in you -- the Alzheimer's caregiver.

You can keep complaining about your loved one, or you can start listening with your ears and your eyes.

What is the look on the face of the person living with dementia? What does it tell you?

Does your loved one need some reassurance right now? An arm around the shoulder?

Or, how about you go for it, all out, with a full body hug. Niceeee.

Once you learn how to give your loved one a little smile, and you start getting the smile back, you eventually come to a  simple conclusion

You are on the path to Joy.

On the path. Not there yet, on the way.

Put it this way.

You will feel so good inside that you could only conclude you are going to a much better place than where you have been as an Alzheimer's caregiver.

It is kinda like walking down the yellow brick road. There will be trials and tribulations all along the way. You might even have to play the role of the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion all by yourself.

But the ultimate goal in the Wizard of Oz was for Dorothy to get back to Kansas.

Lo and behold, Dorothy had the ability to get herself home to Kansas all along. The good witch Glinda told her how.

So the moral of this article today is simple and straightforward

"there is no place like home."

And no one understands this better than the deeply forgetful - the person(s) living with dementia.

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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 ARR Knowledge Base contains more than 5,000 articles. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

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