As featured in North Hawaii News October 12, 2015
Have you ever been wrongfully accused or held accountable for something that you did not do? When an older adult starts making mistakes due to dementia, it is natural for their caregivers to start pointing these unusual errors out. However, the person receiving care truly may not recall that they have done something wrong. Having a brain disease doesn’t mean they don’t know any better, it means that they may simply not remember doing it.
I have found that it is helpful to focus on the intention, rather than the action, of the individual with dementia. For example, if someone experiencing disorientation leaves the door open, throws away important documents, uses double the salt and no sugar in the cookies, etc., they do not need a scolding. They need understanding. Step back and just allow life to be messy sometimes.
Patience and understanding are key to easing a potentially turbulent caregiving dynamic. Robert McKendry, the new Head of Hawaii Preparatory Academy, gave a great quote by Joyce Meyer when speaking to the lower school students. It says, “Patience is not simply the ability to wait — it’s how we behave while we’re waiting.” Keeping calm through repetitive and sometimes messy results of forgotten errors is imperative.
Of course, the caregiver is likely to need an outlet. Journaling is a great way to throw it all out there and vent frustrations. Once they are released, talk some sense into yourself and look at it from a more understanding perspective. Write down a couple of sentences about the values of your loved one and how they are not intentionally causing problems. Consider them as comforting you in a way that they may no longer have the ability to demonstrate. The spirit of your loved one will always be there. Let that be your guide through this uncharted territory.
Reminder: Tutu’s House is hosting the “Powerful Tools for Caregivers” course later this month. I highly encourage all caregivers to take advantage of this worthwhile free program.