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Joining the Journey

I attended a great presentation today on how to reduce hospitalization in persons with dementia. There were about 80 participants that asked very good questions. Most in attendance either had a spouse or close friend who were in varies stages of dementia. The one question that struck me was from a gentleman whose wife was in the mid-late stage of Alzheimer’s and he wanted to know how to get her to understand she had Alzheimer’s and what that meant.
The speaker handled this very well by saying no matter how much you want to get your wife to understand, she will not be able to because the disease has robbed her the ability to reason. She went on to say that the one thing you can do is to join her where she is at. If you continue to try to reason with an individual who is no longer capable of understanding often the result is frustration for the caregiver and acting out behaviors by the person with Alzheimer’s. They act out because they are confused and frustrated themselves and because of the disease cannot express it in a constructive manner.
I always tell the families of our clients that they need to join their loved one in their “reality”. If they say the white wall is purple, then it is purple to you also. If dad says he needs to leave to go to work so he won’t be late, go along with it and when the opportunity presents itself, distract him with another task such as “ok dad but first we need to make your lunch”. Often he will forget all about work. Now this takes energy on your part, but far less than being in a constant battle when you try to convince him he is retired and no longer works.
What are your experiences in caring for an elder loved one with dementia? How have you joined their journey?

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