Before I lived with and cared for someone with dementia, she and I had both lived alone – I for six years and she for about 20.
All of a sudden we were together in close quarters: two fiercely independent women each of whom had run her own business for several decades, each with a mind of her own, each accustomed to doing what she wanted when she wanted and not having to accommodate anyone but herself, each very much her own person.
Plus, one of us had a brain disease about which the other new little.
It was a miracle we didn’t kill each other. But we didn’t. We found a way to get out of conflict and on to safer ground. It wasn’t easy, and I hope the tips below will help you to do the same…
BANGS is an acronym for five ways I wish I hadn’t had to learn from experience about how to defuse conflict with people who live with Alzheimer’s / dementia.
“G” is for let go
In the bangs webinar I talked about “G” standing for two things:
- go with their flow,
- let go of your ego
1) Go with their flow
Most of us are accustomed to doing things according to schedule(s). We have agendas, literal, figurative, and physical.
We create lists of things to do and time frames within which we must do them. Alzheimer’s/dementia taught me that agendas, schedules and lists are artificial. We create them and we think we need to stick to them when in reality we don’t.
The quickest way to conflict with a person with dementia (PWD) is to try to force them to fit your agenda. In fact, if you think about it, mostly everybody wants to do what they want, not what others want them to do. Why would PWD be any different?
Conversely, the easiest way to create peace and harmony is to let go of your agenda and let the PWD run with theirs, however strange and uncomfortable it may seem to you.
2) Let go of your ego
Tough. Extremely tough to do — especially for family members. Your loved one with dementia might say horrible and hurtful things to you. Not out of malice, but because their brain isn’t functioning properly.
For example, parents with dementia often vehemently tell their children they don’t have children. Some call their children stupid or idiots or worse. they may say you are mean to them or abusive. They may chastise you for not calling when you live in the same house 24 seven and have done for years! That’s the disease talking. They may be be mean to when you try to help Them. They may chastise you for all kinds of things you may or may not have done.
Rather than allow yourself to be devastated, try choosing something different. Learn to let go of your ego, and to not be hurt by their hurtful words. It makes things easier. Not easy. Easier. Every little bit counts.
Besides everything else I talked about in the webinar, here are three “bonus” ideas to add to the “G” in BANGS: get over it, get on with it and get down to it.
3) Get over it
This is an extension of letting go of your ego: when you let go, let go completely. Don’t harbour any resentment. Don’t seek revenge for the way you may have been treated. Don’t bully. Get over it. If you don’t get this one, The Eagles explain it more fully here.
This is a hard pill to swallow when you feel like the wounded party, but believe me, it works.
4) Get on with it
Self explanatory I think: keep going. Don’t let the disease get the best of you.
5) Get down to it
By this I mean get down physically so you are at or below eye level of the person with dementia.
Let them have the power position above you to make communication easier and less threatening. This works a treat.
Don’t want to end up in a “shoot-out” with a PWD? Use BANGS.
“G” is for let go
And: 10 ways to use improv to improve life with Alzheimer’s (more about “going with the flow” as well as a live demo of what it looks like)