Taking Care of You
We just finished some fabulous winter days and now are back to some rain, the ups and downs of winter in California. It’s almost inevitable that the changeable weather makes me think of the changeable nature of caring for a loved one.
Just when we think things have settled down or just when we think we have our caregiving role mastered, something changes. Our loved one might improve or she might change for worse. Doesn’t it seem like we spend our time waiting for the other shoe to drop?
What could be the opposite of the anxious, watchful waiting that most of us do? We might try relentless optimism embracing the stability that we are currently experiencing. We might try mightily ignoring our anxiety.
I’d recommend the caregiver’s way. The caregiver’s way has three elements.
Element 1: Preparation.
We educate ourselves to understand what is likely to happen in the future and we make plans and find resources before we need them.
Element 2: Refreshment.
We engage with people and in events and activities that renew us while we have a lull in our caregiving responsibilities.
Element 3: Mindfulness
We focus on staying in the present moment in each activity we do and with each person that we are with, most especially with the person we are caring for. We create and share moments that we live in fully. When we find ourselves living in the past or fearing the future, we bring our minds back to this moment right now.
Dementia Special Tips
One of the biggest challenges of helping a family member with dementia is coping with the way his behavior changes or certain personality characteristics become more pronounced.
When negative personality traits become worse, it feels like more of the same old stuff that you experienced with your family member in the past. This makes it very hard to see that these changes may be caused by his condition. When we mix together our personal history with the person and society’s myths about negative, grouchy old people, these changes can feel inevitable.
Dementia can feel like the person’s personality on steroids.
Here are some suggestions on dealing with negative interactions with your family member.
If your family member still has social awareness and cares about the feelings of others, you can simply state your feelings. “Dad when you said I’m not good at sports, it makes me feel sad.” Know that over time, your family member will lose the ability to empathize with your feelings and that you will need to move on to other techniques listed below.
Redirect the conversation. When your parent fixates on a negative subject, propose another topic to discuss or suggestion another activity.
Speak to your family member’s underlying emotion. “It sounds like you feel sad”. Then redirect their conversation and/or activities.
If your family member’s relentless negativity is getting you down, try spending less time with your family member. Short and more frequent visits may be more comfortable for you. If you and your family member live together, find a friend, family member or hire a person to give you a break. Consider sending your family member to the local senior center or an adult day program to give you needed rest from his company.