Being my mother’s primary care partner in various ways for ten years was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It was ultimately also one of the most rewarding in that it provided me with countless learning opportunities. I’ve blogged before about the joys, the difficult emotions and the lessons I and other dementia care partners have learned; here are five more:
A changing brain does not suddenly make someone less than human, less what they were before their brain started to change, or less deserving than anyone else. People are people, no matter the condition of the their brain, or their body. They have rights, needs and wants, just like the rest of us do. Recognizing and fulfilling those rights, needs and wants are societal and communal responsibilities.
2 ) Stigma destroys the stigmatized
Stigma can be more destructive and devastating to a person’s well being than a terminal illness. Stigma causes many people who live with dementia and the people who care for them to become isolated, sometimes even shunned by family and friends. This isolation is often more damaging to people who live with dementia and their care partners than the condition itself. Changing the way we see dementia and the people who live with it is one of the most powerful ways we can positively impact the well being of those who live with the condition.
3 ) Life is challenging
The challenges we face in life provide opportunities for us to learn, grow and become better people. The challenges of living with dementia and/or being the care partner to someone who lives with dementia are like other life challenges in the sense that they also provide opportunities for us to learn, grow and become the best we can be. It’s up to us to find the opportunities in the challenges we face.
4 ) We are not dead until we die
This seems obvious. Nevertheless, others treat many people who live with dementia as if they are already gone. I believe that treating someone as if they are not here when they still are increases the chances that they will decline at a faster rate. People need attention (via words, deeds and touch) to know they are loved and appreciated. Treating people with love, compassion, understanding and tender care will improve their well-being and boost their ability to thrive, even as they near the end of life.
5 ) Not needing to be recognized increases the chances you will be
When friends and family let go of the need to be recognized by a loved one who lives with dementia, I believe the chances that the person living with dementia will recognize them increases. My theory is unproven and based on my own experience, but I feel strongly that it’s true. When we let go of the need to be recognized, we become more relaxed, more loving, and more open to possibility, all of which impacts those around in a positive way and creates an environment in which positive interactions are more likely to occur.
What lessons have you learned?
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