Here, for your perusal, is another set of ‘Tentative Tips’. As I said in Part One, please do take them for what they are – ideas shared in the hope they might prove useful to others as they have proved useful to me and other carers I have talked to. Do feel free to comment and share your own ideas. I feel that this is a series that could run and run…
Express yourself through caring
You are still you! Find fun and quirky ways to care, or things to do with the person you care for which express your personality. Don’t think you can’t do wild things (and sensible ones too!). If nothing else, dementia can free the inhibitions, so why not take your cue from the person you care for? My dad is much more likely to enjoy a picnic by the sea in February or have a game of crazy golf than he was before the Alzheimer’s set in. He loves nothing more than a sing-a-long in the car. It’s taken time, but I’ve learnt to relax and have fun with my dad.
Don’t keep reminding!
When memory is an issue, reminding people of appointments or activities or the need to do something can seem logical and sensible. However, repeating something time and again can end up stressful both for you and the person you care for. It can also heighten their sense of not being do the things that they used to do, and they may feel (and may well say!) that you are treating them like a child. If nothing else, it is simply exhausting! Give yourself a break and let that reminder remain in your head then float away. I know it sounds nuts, but I find that visualization tricks help with this – I simply imagine that niggle in my head lifting away like a flock of birds into a blue sky. Heaven knows why, but it works for me!
Be the Mistress (or Master) of Deception
Recently at the carers’ support group we were talking about problems with sleeping – ie what strategies to use when caring for someone who goes missing from bed and sits up all night. Having eliminated most other options, we looked at the possibility that a glass of beer near bedtime was not a good idea. Changing to non-alcoholic beer seemed an obvious suggestion, but people with dementia are sticklers for routine and often hate change. They also have an uncanny ability to notice the slightest difference to, for instance, the look of their beer bottle. This is where deception comes in. Although we hated to suggest it, it can be a solution. So how about emptying one of the old beer bottles and substituting the non-alcoholic version instead? We continued sharing our experiences and soon discovered that deception also works for the refusal to have a change of shirt scenario – several people had found that purchasing multiple shirts of the same colour and design meant that used ones could disappear into the wash unnoticed.
Let them teach you
Try to see things from the perspective of the person you are caring for and learn from this. I find I often get irritated and have to remind myself that if it was me with dementia I would definitely not be playing ball or taking things lying down! For ‘obstinate’ read: ‘someone who wants to stay independent and has the strength of character to go for it despite difficulties’, for ‘unrealistic’ read: ‘would rather do something the way they always have with peripheral fall-out than accept limitations’. OK, you do have to draw the line somewhere, but sometimes a stroppy reaction or refusal to accept a suggested way of doing things actually demonstrates a determination to remain the person and personality they always have been. Take off the ‘carer’ hat for a moment and celebrate!
Starting up the internet dating lark again! Haven’t I learnt my lesson by now?!
Don Giovanni. Royal Opera House production. Big screen with accompanying deer in beautiful Wollaton Park. The amazing climax of the opera set against the backdrop of floodlit Wollaton Hall.
© Anne de Gruchy