Powerful Lesson No. 1

She learned that pushing herself beyond what she thought was possible created self-confidence. She cultivated the kind of self-confidence that isn’t bestowed upon you by someone else, but earned from within. Trust yourself. You are the only one that knows your loved one like you do. You are the only one living this from the inside/out. Let go of any need for the approval of others that you might be holding on to. They aren’t “in it” like you are. The only one that can decide if you did your best on any given day, is you.

Powerful Lesson No. 2

She learned that it was OK to fall down. She learned that the only way to continually improve is to leave the comfort of what she knew to try something different.

In our quest to protect our loved one’s daily routine, sometimes we get locked into the thinking that the right thing to do is try to keep everything as same, as close to yesterday as possible. However, dementia doesn’t really allow us to “freeze” time, or keep our loved one static in the same phase of the disease process. Dementia requires us to try new things.

As our loved one’s needs and abilities change, we have to as well. If we stay on the slope we have already comfortably conquered, content in our mastery of that set of challenges, one day we’ll be there all by ourselves.   Our loved one has possibly already been coping with the expert level slope while we weren’t looking.  Go there with them. It’s okay to fall down, in fact, I highly recommend it. That’s how you’ll learn what pace and approaches will help you best navigate the new and changing landscape of dementia care.

Powerful Lesson No. 3

Sometimes we have to get out of our own way.   Sometimes the only thing stopping us from a more fulfilling experience is ourselves. Sometimes that means trying something with our loved ones that we never thought that would like to do, or have in any interest in.

I’ve heard over and over again surprising stories of successes from family members who couldn’t believe that “When I played 50s music, Dad started humming! He’s bed bound and barely opened his eyes this past week. It was so good to see him enjoy something!” or “Mom, never liked to garden, she HATED it, but I thought I’d try planting some seeds with her for a counter-top herb garden and re-arranging fresh cut flowers and she loved it!”

Don’t let your own pre-conceived ideas about what won’t work stop you from trying. You never know when something might work, even if it didn’t before. Just keep trying.

In Conclusion

Pushing for the best possible day means pulling from a reservoir of inner strength again and again and it’s hard. It would be so easy to revel in the success, to savor those moments when you and your loved one felt connected, safe and purposeful. It’s okay to relish those triumphs, and I know how hard you worked to get there.   You absolutely deserve time to acknowledge what’s working and reflect on your good days, you earned it.

But don’t run the risk of staying on the bunny slope too long.   The best way to prepare for the inevitably increasing challenges caregiving for someone with dementia presents is to continually add to the skill set you already have by trying new and different things when you can.

So, don’t forget to ask yourself at the end of each day, “But, did I fall down?”


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Mara Botonis

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