Dementia Part 1
by Bruce Cooper
Published on April 16, 2024
Categories: Aging | Health & Fitness

Dementia

Part 1

About two years ago (2021) my wife, Peggy, whom I love dearly, started showing the beginning or initial signs of dementia. These signs have slowly advanced over time. What follows is what I have learned and what I am still learning, consequently, this dedicated web page will be a “work in progress”. The provided content will be added to and updated throughout as available time permits.

I’ve written previously about my wife’s condition in individual posts and shared some of what we have gone through. You can view these posts here, here, here ,here and here.

Neither of us has ever walked down this road before. Obviously, we are both Christians and our reliance and trust is in God, who has and is sustaining us both through this journey with and through His grace.

What I am sharing are “lessons learned” along the way. These are not easy lessons to learn. They tear at the heartstrings of both of us and most of these “lessons learned” have been gained by the hard road of experience, which include some successes and some failures. I’ve done my homework and dedicated a substantial amount of time to research to educate myself about dementia and learn about the responsibilities and requirements of being a loving caregiver. But what you learn (knowledge from words) and what you experience (emotions and developing greater trust in God) are two different sources.

I am not a professional caregiver, nor am I any kind of medical authority. I’m just sharing what I have learned while trusting in God to direct my steps and bring comfort to my wife and myself, as we walk down this path that has unfolded before us.

I share what I share in the hope that it may be of assistance to someone else who is going through this, like we are, for the very first time.

 

LESSONS LEARNED

 Correction
No positive purpose is served by reminding someone who has dementia, that they are mistaken by what they recall or what they cannot recall. When we correct them, all it does is remind them that they have memory loss issues that will, in all probability, only get worse over time. Their minds cannot now retain the correction that we provide. Our mistake when we correct them is that we expect them to remember the correction. Part of the learning process with caregivers for loved ones with dementia is to retrain our own brain from what we normally expect to happen, to the reality of what happens to those who suffer from dementia.

Effects of Dementia

Dementia not only affects what the person cannot remember, it also affects what the person does remember. Thus, their inability to recall someone whom they may have seen on the street yesterday becomes their reality of continually remembering someone on the street whom they currently do see today, as someone they have seen previously, even when such is not the case. It’s almost like their mind is trying to compensate for that which they can no longer remember, by remembering that which has in fact not taken place. There are variations of this false remembering pattern displayed through the advancing symptoms of dementia. And until one grasp what is taking place in the loved one who has dementia, it can cause the unsuspecting caregiver considerable frustration. The initial learning curve of adapting to interacting with someone who has dementia can be steep.

In addition, sometimes their minds will fabricate inaccurate memories or their mind seems to invent memories to explain how a misunderstood incident has unfolded in their own mind. They may also infer that we have been critical of them, or unduly harsh with them, when in fact we have not. The “Rule of Thumb” is to initially expect the unexpected and learn to be gentle in all of our responses.

Adapting the caregiver’s emotions to the reality of our loved one with dementia takes time. It’s a different way for the caregiver’s thinking to adjust to, that takes time to grasp. During the initial stages of dealing with our own frustration, our own overreaction can be problematic. When this happens, confess your own overreaction to your loved one who has dementia, if you have overreacted and also to God and expect God’s grace to be waiting for you anew the next day. Constant reassurance of our love and concern for our loved ones with dementia is always beneficial, even when we may be falsely accused by them of doing otherwise or while we are in the process of learning ourselves.

Furthermore, experiences which you know they have previously gone through, become realities for them that they are sure or convinced they have never experienced. Correcting them will not change their reality because their reality has or is changing and they no longer remember these previous experiences.

The most difficult part of initially interacting with someone you love who has progressive dementia is adapting to their reality and coming to understand what they are dealing with. In essence, we (the care giver) are in the process of retraining ourselves on how to adjust our own expectations that are no longer valid, when interacting with a loved one who has progressive dementia. This in itself takes time but it does become easier.

Continued

Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!

Bruce Cooper is a disciple of Jesus, married to Peggy, with 5 grown up children, 7 grandchildren. He is retired from the Canadian Armed Forces and resides in beautiful Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. a.k.a. “Papa.” To read more of Bruce’s work visit Reasoned Cases For Christ.  

Featured Photo by Vlada Karpovich from pexels.com

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