6 Tips to Have More Fun While Caregiving

Carol Bradley Bursack, Minding Our Elders | Feb 14th 2017 Apr 10th 2017

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Many dementia caregivers feel as though they are treading water just to avoid sinking under the often exhausting pressures associated with dementia care. But consciously changing your attitude can, with practice, significantly change how your days, and those of your loved one, unfold. Here are some tips to get started.

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Offer comfort rather than correction

No one wants to be repeatedly told that they are wrong, but that is often what happens to people who live with dementia. If the person with dementia says that her (deceased) husband took her to a dance last night, what does it matter that it’s not true? Ask her to tell you all about it – which allow for a pleasant interaction.

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Listen to what is behind the words

Learning to listen to the meaning behind your loved one’s words is vital. For example, when your loved one says “I want to go home,” chances are she is looking for what feels familiar and safe. Offer comforting words as well as distraction. (“Let’s snuggle under the blanket and watch _It’s a Wonderful Lif_e.”)

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Help discover hidden talents

The loss of inhibition that is generally part of dementia can allow creative talents to surface. At art museums, people with Alzheimer’s often see meaning in paintings that others miss. During art therapy or home projects, many show an uncanny ability to capture emotion in paintings while music therapy allows expression and can improve self-image.

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Make a record of their truths

People with dementia often retain long-term memory. The opportunity to relate these memories by telling stories provides these individuals with validation that their lives have mattered. Listen deeply and you will learn to enjoy what could become great history lessons, as well as some of your own most precious memories.

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Rediscover the hidden child in each of you

If your loved one seems off in another world, join him. Ask him to tell you about what he is observing. Ask him about colors and textures and people. Ask him what he is doing and what people are saying. Validate his story. Truth can have many perspectives, so let your imagination run free and join your loved one his world.

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Learn to let go of perfection

The need for perfection can ruin your caregiving life. Your loved one may fight showers. She may fight having her hair combed one day and insist on having it set in curls another day. In caregiving, change is constant, so being flexible and learning to live with less order and predictability will lower your own stress.

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The takeaway

Nothing can make it easy for us to watch the cognitive decline of someone we love. Nothing will take away the agony of seeing loved ones so changed from the individuals they used to be. But imaginatively entering into their world is the most effective way to survive, and occasionally enjoy, the world of dementia caregiving.