Your Grandma has dementia. And your Mom’s having fits about it. You can hear them sometimes.
“Mom!” says your Mom to Grandma. “I told you three times…” and off she goes again.
You might think the problem is that Grandma’s got dementia. The real problem is that Mom doesn’t know what dementia does to a person. She doesn’t know the basic ways that dementia makes normal life possible.
If your Mom would just learn, say, five ways that dementia changes a person, she wouldn’t blame Grandma so much. So here’s a list.
Five Ways Dementia Changes People:
1. It takes away short-term memory, so people forget things a lot, sometimes in a minute;
2. It prevents people being able to think logically, step by step;
3. It makes people lose the skills they once had;
4. It makes them unable to recall your name;
5. It makes them lonely and frightened.
The changes that dementia brings happen because of physical changes in the brain. They are not personal choices. People don’t forget by choice, mess up through intent and forget you through meanness.
These are just the normal things that happen in dementia. You’re healthy but, if you fall over, you hurt your knee. Your Grandma has dementia, it hurts her brain. You probably can’t help her brain, though possibly her doctor can.
You can all help Grandma though. You can have the right attitudes.
Five Helpful Approaches:
1. Kindness: this helps everyone in the family;
2. Patience: taking things slowly works well with dementia;
3. Speak simply: one thought at a time;
4. Accept imperfection: in yourself as well as those you care for;
5. Hugs and rest: lots of both.
Often, those closest in age and relationship to the person who has dementia does worst with it all. That’s because we most of us don’t really want those changes and we fight them. Sometimes that means we end up fighting the person and the disease both, even though we can’t change either.
That just brings lots of extra stress, strain and pressure into an already difficult situation. If that’s your Mom, that’s because of her own fear and anger and helplessness all mixed up together.
It can happen anywhere in the family — between husband and wife, between generations. Dementia makes everyone feel a bit helpless and lost. It’s scary.
I’ve often seen the teenage members of the family do best of all. One reason is that they’re more flexible. They aren’t afraid of an old person’s dementia. They may even find it interesting and new, which is always my attitude to someone with dementia. I want to learn them. To see how they manage. To figure out how they think and what goes on in their memory. I want to know how they manage to be good-humored, if they are. How they keep sane. What they may enjoy. How they adapt, even though they don’t know they’re adapting.
Younger family members are often more sympathetic to much of this. Older ones were just feeling as if they really knew this older person who then begins to change, sometimes radically, through dementia.
This is where things get hard. And it where you might be able to model what good dementia interactions are all about.
Remember, as a young person, you have a lot to teach us. Just don’t mention that, okay. Be it. And many blessings upon you. Certainly Grandma will be grateful.
Article By: Frena Gray-Davidson
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