Mar 9, 2018

The Importance of Self Concept and Self Esteem in Alzheimer's Care

When it comes to Alzheimer's caregiving it is very difficult to be positive because at the outset few of us have any concept of what to do.

Self concept defines how you think or feel about yourself.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Self concept, the concept of self.

Self concept defines how you think or feel about yourself. 

Basically, self concept is a determining factor in what you believe you can do; and, what you believe you can't do.

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The concept of self is determined by our experiences.

In the case of Alzheimer's caregiving it is very difficult to be positive because at the outset few of us have any concept of what to do.

Take me for example. When asked, I tell people you could put everything I knew about Alzheimer's in a "thimble" when it first came a knocking on the door with Dotty.

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I didn't know what to do, and back in 2003 there wasn't much of what I could describe as help, insight, or advice available. Now, there is a lot more information available, a lot more sharing on the Internet, and if the typical caregiver hunts long and hard with a positive attitude they can find the information they need.

Or, you can search here for over 5,000 articles and learn more about how to solve and deal with the problems you face each day.

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Yesterday, while I was telling someone about my spiral notebooks to record Dotty's patterns of behavior and all the good ideas that came up as result, I segwayed into Dotty land, and began recounted my long fascinating and wonderful story about Dotty and the motorized shopping carts at Walmart.

In the beginning Dotty refused to drive the cart in Walmart. For more than a year when I suggested to Dotty that she get into the motorized shopping cart and follow me around Walmart she would always say, NO.

Finally, Dotty could no longer walk far enough to follow me around Walmart. I had three options:
  • leave her in the car, 
  • bring her into the store and sit her down on a bench, 
  • or get her to follow me around in the motorized shopping cart.
One day I was filled with determination when Dotty said NO. I went into the store, jumped on the motorized cart, drove it outside and right up to the door of our car. I opened the car door and said,

"come on old girl time to drive the car".

Dotty got up and I helped her into the cart.

Wait a minute. I didn't think about it at the time but did Dotty get in because I said,

"time to drive the car." 

I don't know, but most likely it helped. Why didn't I think of this sooner?

I gave Dotty some quick instructions on how to drive the cart and then, uh oh. I was filled with an immediate feeling of trepidation. I felt nervous,

what if she couldn't do it?

Funny how the brain will do anything it can do to deter you from doing something. The brain will try to trick you every time when it comes to Alzheimer's care.

Needless to say, Dotty was a champion driver from day one. Never hit anything, never got stuck, drove the cart and followed me around.

One night Dotty was talking to my sister Joanne and Joanne asked,

"what did you do today." 

Dotty asked me, "what did we do"? I responded we went to Walmart and you drove the cart all around the store while we shopped.

I could never have expected what happened next.

Dotty became very animated and started telling Joanne about how "good" she drove the cart around the store. Dotty was smiling, laughing, and really proud of herself.

As I sit here thinking about this story and episode I wonder,

did activities like driving the cart help improve Dotty's self concept?

Did activities like this one change Dotty's perception of herself? Did activities like this one help Dotty develop a positive mental attitude? Did this raise her self esteem?

Yes, they did. I firmly believe they did.

This explains in part why Dotty looked and sounded so much better in years 4 through 8, then she did in years one through four.

This is my belief.

Believe in yourself, believe in the person who is deeply forgetful.

Don't worry about what other people will think. Don't worry about an occasional failure, or set back.

Be optimistic in all you do, not pessimistic.

Develop your own new positive Alzheimer's care concepts. Watch this new found attitude spill over on to your loved one who is living with Alzheimer's or a related dementia.

Remind them how to do things, let them do things, and watch as their self esteem grows and your day and life improves.

Pretty simple equation for success if you ask me. The bottom line is you will never know unless you try. Once I learned that Dotty could do more than I thought - I never stopped trying.

Related Articles

How to Listen to an Alzheimer's Patient

Alzheimer's and the Importance of Thinking Positive

The Connection Between UTI and Worsening Dementia

How to Understand and Foster Self Esteem in People Living with Dementia

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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.

Original content the Alzheimer's Reading Room