Blame the Dementia…Not the Patient
As a caregiver for a person with dementia, there will be times when you’ll feel totally alone, you’ll second guess your decisions, you can’t remember the last time you had a good night’s sleep, you question your own sanity and you feel resentful.
Michelle Lennon, of Elara Caring, was Tim Collins’ guest on WBCK’s Miles for Memories. She cautioned that the stress of constantly dealing with a dementia patient can take its toll.
“You may even feel your loved one is choosing to be this way”, said Lennon. “They are not. Dementia has changed the brain of your loved one. His or her brain is no longer healthy or whole. Dementia now determines how he or she behaves. Your loved one is not choosing to be this way. If they had the ability to choose their actions or reactions, they would certainly not choose Dementia. Once you begin to blame the dementia rather than your loved one for their behavior, you may also feel less stressed and less resentful – and less guilty for feeling resentful.”
Lennon offered these caregiver tips:
- Sometimes a white lie is best – don’t try to correct your loved one’s memories. If your loved one talks about going to visit mom, there is no need to tell him/her that mom is deceased. You might say instead that they can visit “tomorrow” and save them the confusion or pain of experiencing that loss again. And there’s a good chance that by tomorrow, the visit will be forgotten.
- Don’t be in a rush to help just because it will be easier for you to do it. Just make sure what they are doing is safe and then step back. Let them maintain independence and self esteem as long as possible.
- Never argue with your loved one. You won’t win. You and your loved one are living in different realities. Redirect the conversation, change the subject, distract them – just move on.
- And the most important thing to remember is, There is no such thing as a perfect caregiver. You will make mistakes. You will lose your patience. You can’t know everything there is to know. Accept and forgive yourself just as you do the people you love.