How do you manage your emotions as a caregiver? Do you act or react? Think about that for a moment. Here’s an example: Your loved one repeats “what time is it, what time is it?’ Do you look at the clock and see it’s lunch time and say, “I think it might be lunch time are you hungry?” Or do you say, “I just told you, it 11:30!” ACTING versus REACTING. When you are with your person with dementia (PWD) and you are calm, are they calm? If you are happy, are they happy? Never really thought about it? Maybe it’s time to take notice.
People with cognitive impairment and memory loss work from a place of fear 90% of the time. They are nervous, confused and unsure most of the time, and often with anxiety. They look to the people they love for guidance and reassurance. If you seem angry, nervous or sad, they will too. I don’t think many caregivers are aware of this and therefore we don’t monitor our emotions properly around the person with diagnosis. It’s not about placing blame, it’s about gaining insight to a very easy way to inspire a peaceful household. You need to be aware that the PWD feeds off of your emotions and I am afraid you cannot escape that fact. I get it if you are a quiet person and demonstrative actions aren’t your thing, but the questions is, how content or miserable do you want to be? A gentle smile doesn’t cost a dime. taking a deep breath before you react is priceless.
Let’s try an experiment. Just watch what happens when you lower the tone of your voice and speak slowly. Add a smile or word of encouragement. Watch the person with dementia closely as the anxiety melts away. Have a laugh with them. You will be amazed how they respond to your positive energy. Throw in a hug or a pat on their shoulder or back that expresses love. I promise you, you will like the results.
The things we get uptight about are common place for many of us. Repetitive questions, our loved one can’t dress themselves, hypothetical situations no longer exist. You say you might go to the store in awhile and they get up and go to the door. We get frustrated. No need, take a breath, count to ten, tell yourself it’s the disease not the person. Everyone will be okay.
What frustrates you? If you tell me I might be able to offer a redirection skill or technique. I am here to help. I have walked ten thousand miles in your shoes, I am one of you. After 20 years at the Alzheimer’s Association and 23 years of working with my mama as a PWD. I get it. Try my experiment and tell if it works for you.
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