Strategies for Caregiving

By Robert Elmer III on January 4, 2015 in Uncategorized
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Well it’s that time again. A new year and a time for resolutions that are hopefully designed to make things better. Someone once said that every January 1st we have the opportunity to write a new 365 page book and that we should be doing everything in our power to make it a great book. I agree.
If you’re a personal or professional caregiver of someone with Alzheimer’s or similar dementia you also have a chance to write a spectacular book; a spectacular book on quality caregiving. My next two articles are going to focus on some of the things you all should know to be better caregivers. After all, if you’re a better caregiver then your loved one(s) are enjoying a better quality of life and isn’t that what we want and they deserve? So let’s look at the first five of my 10 Real Life Strategies for better caregiving.
Being reasonable, rational and logical will just get you in trouble. When someone acts in an inappropriate manner we can try to explain the error of their ways to them but their brain no longer has a filter or a “boss” that tells them it’s inappropriate. The result is they don’t respond to logical reasoning.
People with dementia do not need to be grounded in reality. Perhaps you’re loved one is asking where their soul mate is when they’ve been gone for years. Telling them that mom or dad died 3 years ago will only remind them of the loss and renew the pain of that loss. If they say they want to “go home” telling them they ARE home won’t help as chances are they’re thinking of their childhood home. It’s better to redirect them by asking them to tell you about their home and what made it so special.
You cannot be a perfect caregiver. Learn to forgive yourself when you have a bad day. There is no such thing as perfect parents and there is no such thing as a perfect care giver. You have every right to get angry and frustrated, just don’t let your loved one see it.
Therapeutic fibbing reduces stress. I’ve written about this before. We’ve all been raised to be good little boys and girls and never to lie, especially to our elders. When you’re dealing with loved ones with dementia, honesty can lead to distress for you and your loved one. Does it really matter if she thinks she’s a young mother of the infant (doll) she’s carrying? And it’s certainly fine to tell your loved one you’re going out to lunch (if appropriate) and stop by the Doctors office while you’re out.
Making agreements don’t work. Never ask your loved one to “never do that again” or to remember to do something. They’ll forget. Simply put, and you need to remember this, you can not reason with someone who has literally lost the ability to reason. Remember the filter that they don’t have? This missing filter is the same one that would normally tell them that what they are about to do is going to put them in harms way. With that in mind, you may have to change the environment to keep them safe. Remove the car from their site so they aren’t tempted to drive. Turn the stove off at the master switch or breaker to avoid a potential disaster.
In my next article, I’ll touch on five more strategies that I hope you’ll find helpful. Meanwhile, please remember that dementia is no respecter of persons. Thinking that your former math teacher wife, accountant husband, attorney Grandmother is smarter than that and that you can reason with them is a mistake. Besides, if you’re going to err wouldn’t you rather do it on the side of caution?
If you have any questions please email me at repe@careforcaregivers.org. And remember, Join the Journey.

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