Dr. Elaine Eshbaugh writes a warm-hearted, funny and insightful blog Welcome to Dementialand, which I’ve quoted before.
The common sense advice above is taken from her post “Time Management in Dementialand;” it caused me to reflect on strategies and tools we may use as care partners to engage our care partners who live with dementia, stay connected and reduce our own stress.
1 ) Take a walk
There’s no downside and multiple upsides to exercise, particularly walking. It’s a great stress reliever for anyone, living with dementia or not; it helps maintain health, gets you out of the home and into a different space. More activities here.
2 ) Go with the flow
Those with severe memory loss live in the moment – they may not recall the recent past or be able to anticipate what comes next. The environment and people around them must draw them in and simplify their interactions with the world. More about going with the flow here.
3 ) Don’t argue or correct
I spent years arguing with my mother and exacerbating no-win situations before I became aware that debate only created more anger and angst. By arguing, I became the cause of her “bad behaviour.” It wasn’t the disease, it was me; it wasn’t her fault, it was mine. More on that here.
4 ) Listen fully
Listen with more than your ears. Use your eyes, your heart and your mind. Learn to look behind behaviour to discover what a person with dementia is trying to communicate by their actions. Listen to their behaviour–it may say a lot more than their words ever will. More on this here.
5 ) Be quiet
I spent countless hours with my mother holding hands, watching birds at a feeder, looking out at a field, simply being together in silence. Quiet times can be as engaging as activity, and silence provides space for possibility if you let it. Remember the “pregnant pause?” More on this here.
6) Put yourself in their shoes
7) If something doesn’t work, try something else
It’s useful to have multiple strategies and tools at the ready to manage different sets of circumstances and events, any one of which might work or not at any given time. For example, music might help someone to feel calm today, but baking cookies might do the trick tomorrow. Music might be effective again the day after tomorrow and the following day, but not the day following that. Flexibility and creativity are important.