Dancing with Dementia
For 12 years, my friend Brenda has cared for her mother Martha, who suffers with Alzheimer’s Disease. Martha is fortunate that she can remain in her home with her beloved cat. This is partly because Brenda’s husband has installed Ring cameras in Martha’s house so that they can monitor her movements at any time of the day.
Brenda knows the importance of maintaining a schedule for someone with Alzheimer’s.
So, each morning she arrives at the same time to get her mom up, dressed and fed. She then writes a note in the journal that sits on the kitchen counter reminding Martha of her schedule for the day before heading off to work. Brenda then picks up her mom after work and brings her to her own home for dinner and evening activities before taking her home again and getting her tucked into bed.
It takes fancy footwork to meet this schedule every day.
At the moment, personal hygiene is the most difficult activity for Martha. She can’t do anything on her own. Once, Brenda tried to introduce a Waterpik to help Martha clean her teeth and gums. The result was a water fiasco in which both Brenda and her mom were soaking wet.
Brenda admits that she has had to let go of being the perfect caregiver. She recognizes that doing her best is good enough.
Another friend, Matthew, is caring for his aunt Carole, who has always had a violent temper. At times he finds it difficult to remember not to take her accusations personally. He knows that Carole, who is 89-years old with a mitral valve disease, atrial fibrillation and severe dementia, is frustrated that she can’t control her environment.
It has been hard to find aides who can manage Carole with compassion. She talks negatively about her aides and her children, who no longer visit. Matthew is the only one committed to caring for her.
He has learned some smooth moves to accomplish his duties as a caregiver.
He steps away when he gets his feathers ruffled. He knows that if he ends a phone call quickly or simply leaves her in the care of an aide when her temper flairs, he will be forgiven quickly since Carole does not remember the argument the following day.
Matthew and Brenda each practice rituals to center themselves within their caregiving roles. Brenda walks her dog Cora and sings with the local Threshold Choir. Matthew has a meditation practice that promotes his serenity and acceptance. Both use the Seer’s Ritual to support their ability to connect their visual cortex to the wisdom of their heart.
This allows them to dance well with dementia.
As a caregiver it is always important to communicate from your heart. The Seer’s Ritual is a technique to help you connect your brain to your heart.
Tips to Communicate with Your Loved One
Caring for your loved one with dementia poses emotional and physical challenges.
It can be difficult to adjust to new roles and cope with the profound changes your loved one is experiencing.
The challenge of communicating increases as their dementia progresses due to personality and behavioral changes, memory loss, mental confusion, and struggles with self-care.
While there aren’t always hard and fast rules, there are actions you can take to help create more loving interactions:
• Take a deep breath and be truly present.
• Maintain your sense of humor.
• State questions simply.
• Listen and speak from your heart.
• Avoid criticizing or correcting.
• Break down activities into a series of steps.
• Use distraction and redirection if they seem agitated or frustrated.
• Respond with reassurance if they are confused or anxious.
• Share older memories that they are more likely to remember.
• Don’t talk about your loved one as if they aren’t there.
• Speak as you would to an adult and assume that they understand.
Practicing these tips and as well as the Seer’s ritual will increase the chance for better communication and more positive outcomes.
Alzheimer and Dementia Caregiver Training Videos
Alzheimer’s Caregiver Resources
One Hundred Names for Love: A Memoir, a Stroke, a Marriage, and the Language of Healing
Seer’s Rite Munay-Ki from the Q’ero of the Andes Mountains