Sometimes as caregivers, we think about “me.” How does this impact “me?” How “my” life is affected. “My” world is turned upside down. Yes, that may be true – it is likely very true. However, as caregivers, we must realize that this moment is not about “us” alone. Imagine what your loved one is experiencing. We may get frustrated at the first sign of our loved ones forgetfulness and confusion; but imagine the thoughts going through their mind as well. We realize the changes in our bodies; and so does your loved one. Be patient during this initial realization that your loved one may be displaying dementia symptoms.
I remember the first time I realized that my mother was showing signs of dementia. It was the most challenging time of my life. For years, I watched this strong, black woman, my best friend, and my compass digress and it shook me to the core. The best thing that could’ve happened for both of us was my realization that life as we both knew it was no more. It was like she became my daughter, and I had to give her the best life possible – like our parents did for us. In that moment, my purpose in life was to make sure that my mother had the care and support necessary to keep her happy and complacent as possible. Be clear, it didn’t come without struggle, but it did come.
Below are some recommendations on how to co-exist with a loved one that suffers from dementia. First, do NOT just let them sit and watch television all day. Although their brains are not functioning the way they used to; the brain is still functioning. Don’t let it get stagnant by sitting your loved one in front of a television. Life as they know it is fuzzy. Studies suggest that the long-term memory is the last to go. This applies to those suffering with dementia as well. Participate in activities that used to bring them joy.
• Listening to Music
• Walking in the Park
• Looking at old pictures
Adapt to your loved one’s world. Do not try and make them fit into yours. What I mean is this; the things they used to do: travel alone, drive, pay bills, have ‘reasonable’ dialogue diminishes daily. Don’t force them to “remember.” Meet them at their level; similar to how we treat children. This analogy is difficult to digest; it was for me as well. But we don’t (we shouldn’t) force children to live an adult life that we know they can’t handle. The same applies with your loved one that suffers with dementia. Don’t be ashamed to purchase coloring books, and puzzles. Don’t be ashamed to participate in these activities with your loved ones. Do things that bring them joy. Remember, it is not about “you,” it’s about what brings them comfort.
As the caregiver, you will essentially help them adjust and create a new life for them. Bring comfort and peace as much as possible. Laugh, smile, and display affection. What was their “Love Language” when their brains were at full capacity? Continue to meet them at their Love Language. Tell them you love them; call them by their suffix; (mommy, daddy, grandma, etc.,). Ask their opinion, listen to your loved one, and do not stifle their conversation.
Be patient, be kind and be gentle. Your loved one’s brain has an illness, and it is my hope and prayer that one day, we will find a cure. In the meantime, your loved one is Fighting to Remember; we all, are Fighting to Remember.
For additional resources, visit my Alzheimer's Awareness website, Fight to Remember.