Do you ever feel like you are failing to connect with your loved one living with dementia? I know what this feels like because it happened to me.
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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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Eventually I started thinking about how my mother was feeling; instead of, focusing on how I was feeling.
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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.
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These lead me to a 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:I explained my understanding of the role of reassurance in this article -
- to make someone feel less afraid, upset, or doubtful.
- to restore to confidence.
Synonyms: assure, cheer, console, comfort, solace, soothe.
- to relieve someone of anxiety.
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.
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.
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 than 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.
The goal is to reattach to our loved one living with dementia. This is not easy to do. Because of Alzheimer’s we often become disconnected. This happens in part because we continue to interact with our loved one in the way we always have. In most cases this is not effective.
So we must all try harder to understand. To understand that it is not all about us - the caregiver. It is about our loved one and how their brain is changing and how we have to adapt to those changes in order to understand, cope, and communicate with them.
Remember that constant reassurance is necessary. Our loved one can no longer remember what you told them yesterday. They need to be reassured over and over each new day.
Good ways to reconnect include hugs, by holding hands, and by attaching our heads to their heads. If you try this I feel confident you will be amazed by how well this works.
Finally, you have to stop using so many words. By the time you get done explaining they are already confused, and have trouble remembering all of it. Stop the Blah Blah Blah it doesn’t work. Read my article about No More Blah Blah Blah.
Always remember this. When you are getting all frustrated and exasperated remind yourself -
it is not their fault!
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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. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.
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Attachment. Being attached to something or someone. A special affection, fondness, or sympathy for someone or something.
Synonyms: bond with, closeness to, devotion to, loyalty to.
An affectionate relationship between two people.
Attachment theory. A set of concepts that explain the emergence of an emotional bond between a person and their primary caregiver.
Alzheimer's Care. The art of caring for someone living with Alzheimer's or dementia.
Care. The acts of providing what is necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance, and protection of someone.