Never underestimate how important it is to empathize and communicate effectively with your loved one living with dementia. All too often they become “different” or “unreachable” as their dementia develops. You might despair that the person you once knew is completely gone.
You may grow tired, frustrated, or even angry with your loved one; and from this position any hope of healthy and effective conversation is lost. The good news is that we are in control of these emotions. With a little bit of compassion, we can find new ways to say hello and build engagement with our loved ones where it is still possible.
How can we learn to understand?
In the early stages, talk to them! Ask simple, genuine questions. See if they want to talk to you about what they are going through and changes they are noticing. This is going to require patience, your most important skill going forward. You might as well begin developing it now! Remember your body language will need to match what you say. Want to learn more, read our previous post.
In addition to simple conversation, you may want to consider joining a support group or looking for other resources online. Some of these resources are authored by those who are experiencing dementia themselves. These will help us understand what a loved one is going through.
One blog that we recommend is My Voyage With Dementia. The blog is a collection of thoughts from a 79-year-old man living with dementia in Canada. The author, Bob Murray, uses his blog to keep his mind active and to fight against decline. He has created an expansive collection of writings that give us an unfiltered look into what the world is like through his eyes.
Another great read is Dancing with Dementia; a book written by Christine Bryden who was diagnosed with dementia at 46. Dancing with Dementia records Cristine’s experience living with dementia, exploring the effects of memory problems, loss of independence, difficulties in communication, and the exhaustion of coping with simple tasks. Like Bob, Christine’s writing is used as a tool of empowerment and shines a valuable light onto the perspective of a person with dementia.
At the end of the day, the more you are informed about dementia the more you can understand the experiences of your loved one and the better you can care for them. It is important to know the facts, the objective data, the things the doctors will tell you about dementia, but it is also essential to know how to connect emotionally. How do they really feel? What does the world look like to them?
Work with an expert
NursePartners has been working with older adults since 2002. We love it so much that it is all we do. All carepartners are dementia trained by certified dementia practitioners. Want to know more about how we can help you? Give us a call today at 610-323-9800.