The alz.org website defines dementia as “a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Memory loss is an example. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia.”
“Dementia is not a specific disease. It’s an overall term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.”
There are websites out there to help the caregivers and/or those who love the person with dementia. There is, however, nothing like the real deal of actually loving and interacting with a person with dementia and/or Alzheimer’s.
Denial of the loss (slow as it may be) of the person you once knew, often the person who took care of YOU is very powerful…role reversal at its finest. Anger and frustration at their feet of clay are not uncommon. Even gallows humor finds its way in as a coping mechanism…or maybe that’s just if you’re Irish, like me. A gift I’ve found in having the “gift of dementia” in our lives is that I now realize that she has the ability to really only live “in the moment” which is what we’re all striving for on some level or other. And, yet there’s a bit of irony in that she’s not completely aware of it.
There are a myriad of things that you’ll notice when interacting with someone with dementia. One of the more puzzling ones to me is the loss of a sense of time. The book The 36 Hour Day explains it well. The internal clock on your loved one has begun to malfunction. So, he can see that the clock reads 3:15, but can no longer process what exactly 3:15 means. It’s interesting because God has given me a similar learning scenario with our daughter. For the longest time she didn’t understand which meal was to come next (even if we’d had lunch an hour before, she was still anticipating that the next meal was lunch). Funny how God draws these actual parallels for us, isn’t it?
The book suggests using a timer or some sort of device to let the person know that you will return and a timer to help them process the time until you return. Like anything in science it is not exact and so some solutions will work and some won’t depending on the individual.
For the caregiver, there are several great free tools on this site. Always remember to put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others on with theirs!
What have your experiences been like? What worked and what didn’t?