We are using the word dementia because, while all Alzheimer’s is dementia, not all dementia is Alzheimer’s. For us caregivers, almost all the dementias present us with the same challenges. Not a medical one either. The challenge is how do caregivers understand the behaviors and communications of dementia? How do we solve the puzzles of remaking our relationship with our person who now has dementia?
We need to learn better communication. We need to know what problems to accept — the memory issues — and what to resolve — the troubling behaviors we don’t understand.
It’s hard to get this guidance. Most medical exploration of the dementias is all about cure. That’s great, but it doesn’t help caregivers much. So there are now millions of caregivers trying to get a handle on day-to-day caregiving.
Frena Gray-Davidson, British born and American by choice, is your SPEAKING DEMENTIA columnist. She has cared for people with dementia for 20 years now. She’s been a support group facilitator for 15 and is the author of five significant books on dementia and Alzheimer’s caregiving. She set up a small Alzheimer’s daycare program as part of the National Daycare Model project in 1993 and has managed two small care homes, licensed for people with dementia.
Before coming to the USA, she worked as a travel writer and journalist in Asia for 15 years. She studied acupuncture and Chinese medicine in Hong Kong and has written books on Chinese culture and healing, as well as travel guides to Thailand and Sri Lanka. She lived in Nepal for two years, where she was the NBC Radio Correspondent for Nepal, then moved to Hong Kong. She has traveled almost everywhere between India and China.
She became a caregiver by accident in California in 1986 when she arrived in the USA. She found that Alzheimer’s dementia was so demonized and information about it so negative, depressing and unhelpful, that she decided to treat Alzheimer’s as a new culture and to learn it from a person who had the dementia.
“That transforms my whole approach to dementia. We caregivers can learn dementia, to understand it and to create effective relationship with the person who has it. If we want to. That’s what my work is all about.”
Anyone is welcome to email non-medical questions about how we solve issues and make successful relationships with people with dementia.
You can find many of Freda’s articles on our site in the category ‘Speaking Dementia’.
Link data: Frena Gray-Davidson is an international speaker on dementia behaviors for families and a trainer for direct care staff in Memory Care and Alzheimer’s Units. You can check out her website at www.alzguide.com and get copies of her books from www.amazon.com, including her latest book “Alzheimer’s 911: Help, Hope and Healing for Caregivers.” Feel free to email her at email@example.com.