Dementia. It’s one of those terms that really frightens people. The idea of losing our memory or other faculties brings on so many feelings of vulnerability. Here is some background information, along with some true stories meant to provide insight and a glimmer of hope.
What is Dementia
The term “dementia” covers a range of diseases affecting the memory. While we most often hear about Alzheimer’s disease, there is also Lewy Body Dementia, frontotemporal dementia and vascular dementia. In fact, there are over 80 documented types of dementia. However, just because someone occasionally has memory loss doesn’t mean that he or she necessarily has dementia.
Caring for Someone With Dementia
No matter the type of dementia, caring for someone with this diagnosis is challenging and often heart breaking. It’s overwhelming to be responsible for ensuring the safety, quality of life and activities of daily living for someone you love, and it can often leave you feeling alone and isolated. Time together can seem empty and hard to fill at times. So how can you retain that connection and remain close to your loved one? You can do it through the senses.
- Taste & Smell
Here are a few personal stories I would like to share with you.
Connecting Through Music
As your loved one progresses through the various stages of dementia, it can become more and more difficult to reach him or her or have meaningful conversations. One thing that seems to stick with people is their love and recognition of music. For one client, she and her husband shared meaningful time together every Saturday evening while watching The Lawrence Welk Show. This was a tradition they had carried out for many years, and she didn’t let it lapse as his dementia progressed. While he didn’t call her by name or share verbal memories with her, she found that he was relaxed and less agitated during their show time and that he was able to focus on it longer than most things. Consider what music your loved one has always enjoyed, and think about ways to share that music.
Triggering Memory With Pictures
Many people with dementia think they are an age much younger than they really are. You may hear people say their loved ones have “gone back.” They may think they are in their 20s still dating their sweetheart or in their 40s in the height of their careers. For one of our client’s children, it was very clear to them that their mother believed she was in her early 30s and that they were still small. She would talk to them about her little boy and baby girl…when in reality they were 53 and 49, respectively. Her loving family took the time to create a scrapbook of the times their mother remembered, when they were a preschooler and an infant. They could sit and talk to their mom about those days, as she could recall incredible details from back then. Despite the dementia, these children found a way to connect with their mom and make their time together happy and positive by following her mind instead of trying to bring her to the present.
Engaging the Senses
Another time I’ve seen my clients have positive experiences is when their families incorporate sensory activities. One family’s uncle loved the beach and spent a month in Florida every year for 40 years. When they visited with him, they brought a tub of sand and buried shells for him to sift through and find. The smile on his face said it all. Another grandmother sewed all of her life and donated clothes to children in need. She had always been a collector of fabrics. Her grandchildren put together a bin filled with fabric swatches. She’d carry them around the assisted living community she moved into and share stories of different clothing she’d made over the years. The goal here is to find what your loved ones liked prior to the dementia and engage their memories of the past.
Coping with a loved one who has dementia can be difficult, but finding small ways to connect can provide light during a dark time.
If your loved one is preparing for a transition or is moving into an assisted living or memory care community, you don’t have to weather it alone. Let’s see how we can help. Call or email us. We’re here every step of the way.
Barbara Stohlman, Founder
Overwhelmed…How can I help?
Taking the stress out of the transition.