Here is a very helpful article for those who are struggling to understand the dementia of a loved one.Â Visit us at eldercareathome.org for information and assistance with home care for an aging loved one in the South Florida area.
What’s it Like Have Dementia?
By Frena Gray-Davidson
If you have a parent or a spouse with dementia, you probably wonder what people inside the disease feel. One thing that’s always okay is to ask them.
Dementia can be a very isolating condition. It can really affect how well people can communicate. Of course, as we all know, it certainly affects memory. It can be hard for people to even find the words or hold the thoughts they have. It makes it very hard to follow through a whole explanation about anything.
You won’t hurt a person with dementia by asking what you want to know. In fact, it might help them feel less lonely. Because of their condition, they might not be able to find you the answer you want. But that’s okay. Trying is good enough for both of you feel closer.
Five Questions People Ask About Dementia:
1. Does it hurt to have dementia?
Dementia is not a physically painful condition. It is emotionally painful, for family and for the person who has it. If you know someone with dementia who is also having head pains or other pain, it is essential to get them to a doctor for help and relief of their pain.
2. What do people with dementia think about?
Having dementia makes clear and flowing thought difficult. It is hard to be logical and rational with dementia because brain deterioration blocks the channels for clear thought.
That said, they think about their past, their family, their wants, their needs and maybe sometimes nothing much at all.
3. Do they lose all memory?
Not necessarily. Studies show that, while short-term memory becomes catastrophically bad, longterm memory may be anything from surprisingly good to very mediocre.
So a person who doesn’t remember anything about this morning may be able to tell in detail all about being young and living with their parents.
4. What does it feel like to have dementia?
From my 20 years with people with dementia, I’d say it feels frightening, lonely, confusing and full of bewilderment.
But also, just like us, they feel loving, angry, sad, anxious, grateful and add your own adjectives.
5. How can I help?
By using the qualities of patience, love, tolerance, understanding — and honesty. The best thing you can do is to be a fairly nice version of yourself and also truthful. You can say things like:
– “I hate this illness you have!”
– “I wish you were well again!”
– “It’s just not fair!”
– “I’m scared!”
You won’t hurt a person with dementia by being honest about how you feel. In fact, it might help them a lot. It might bring you back closer together. Because what you feel about their illness might well be just what they feel. Maybe they can’t find the words and you being honest might help them talk about it.
Remember, people with dementia are ill, but not necessarily fragile and breakable. So you can talk to them as if they could understand an adult conversation. You’ll soon find out if they understand or not. If they don’t understand today, they may understand tomorrow.
And it’s really okay to experiment and find what works. If you can make them laugh, you will notice that they function at a much higher thinking level for anything from about half an hour to maybe two hours.
It’s the miracle of endorphins. Use and enjoy!
Frena Gray-Davidson is a longterm Alzheimer’s caregiver and her latest book is “Alzheimer’s 911: Hope, Help and Healing for Caregivers”, available from http://www.amazon.com. Frena presents dementia seminars nationally and internationally. Go to her website at http://www.alzguide.com/ and sign up for her free monthly online newsletter for caregivers.
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