Mom adored her cat Pia Roma; she came to live with Mom in her big red brick house on the hill sometime after 2001. In the mornings, Pia and Mom delighted in having tea for two. But as Mom’s dementia progressed, it got harder for her to care for her beloved Pia. Twice when I came home from Dubai in 2010, I found breakfast cereal instead of cat food in Pia’s dish.
“When you develop dementia you don’t lose your interest in providing care,” says dementia care pioneer Teepa Snow, although, as she points out, you may lose some of the skills it takes to do it, just like my mom did.
Caring for other living beings such as a child, a spouse, a friend, a pet, or even the birds outside, as well as caring for the things around you such as your home, your yard, your plants, or whatever brings you pleasure, gives meaning to your life. The desire to care for others and for things doesn’t diminish with dementia.
Here are some specific tips and a video from Teepa Snow on helping people who are living with dementia to care, and thus to keep purpose and meaning alive every day:
- provide guidance appropriate to what kind of GEM the person is
- observe the person’s behaviour closely for clues
- use visual cues (e.g. point, demonstrate, model)
- use verbal cues (i.e. say what might be done, make suggestions, give gentle instructions)
- break activities up into smaller tasks / “windows”
- do “with,” not “for’ or “to”
- support PLWD in what they want to do, what they like to do and what they need to do