Life is more than rainy days, running errands, comforting a friend, or finding the perfect handbag to match your shoes!
We enjoy the friendships and fellowship of the people we love. This year is my Mother's 88th birthday. We rejoice in her happiness and continue to celebrate her successes, marvelling and cheering when we see God's goodness all around. Both believer's and non-believers alike experience love, joy, contentment, colourful sunsets, disappointments, frustrations, and sadness but God alone satisfies our weary souls with His love, grace and mercy.
People with dementia need to be shown love, as well. I know people with dementia do feel love. My Mother, most days, forgets my name or that I am even her daughter, but she knows I am someone special, that I love her, and she loves me. No matter her age, she continues to need hugs, smiles, and encouragement. Dementia steals Mother away little by little. It feels like we say a thousand good byes before she has physically left us.
Many people forget or maybe they believe if a person has dementia it won't matter; so, they just don't bother to visit; and consequently never find that 'special' connection! While my Mother forgets two minutes after I leave her, I know, important parts of her are still intact and she is very much alive. Many believe, those individuals who are suffering from dementia can only live in the moment, but if, in that one moment, they feel love, isn't that the only thing that matters most?
Each and every person in this world is unique, with their own life stories, personalities, likes and dislikes. For those with dementia, it is important to focus on what that person still does have, not on what they have lost; to focus on what the person 'presently' feels, rather than on what they remember! That apparently former person, may no longer seem to exist. Sadly, dementia does transform people into shadows of their former selves. Despite all those things being lost, a person suffering dementia will still retain some of their capacities, and will continue to feel an emotional connection to people and their environment. They are still beautiful on the inside.
As dementia gets worse over time, family members, and care givers will gradually have a more difficult time understanding (someone with dementia) as well as communicating in general. My Mother can no longer string 3 or 4 words together; yet, she knows what she wants to say and often will stop talking or communicating because she is annoyed and/or frustrated with herself and others! While the general trend of dementia sufferers is in a downward decline, my family wants to have Mother's remaining years filled with love, joy, and compassion.
Understanding how to connect with loved ones through these times is important. There are many techniques you may want to learn, essential in communication strategies, for families who have a loved one with dementia. Be calm and confident, our first reaction is often emotionally charged, especially when we see a behaviour that warrants changing. We may shout at our Mother or Father to sit down before they fall, or be annoyed they are eating with their fingers! I know from experience, a warm smile, eye contact, and a light touch may make the listener more open to suggestions than if you yell, throw up your arms, or shrug your shoulders in frustration. Maybe we could practice this with others in our life, when we are in a moment of frustration with them, so we will be better at it when the time may come for someone with dementia.
When we have a sense of where the dementia sufferer is coming from, emotionally and physically, there is a better chance to redirect them. It's best to avoid arguing or using reason, it's just unproductive. (My Mother was the queen of arguments!) A person with dementia loses the ability to follow logic, and it tends to make them more defensive! Make attempts to be reassuring and agreeable, and remember it's okay to go along with their delusions, it's akin to the skill of picking your battles; this will often, bridge or allow you to redirect an activity.
Did you know boredom fuels repetitive behaviours? Three successful things for restless behaviours which worked for Mother is: listening to her favourite country and western songs; holding hands and running my fingers through her hair; and most recently, we purchased her a robotic cat. Mother immediately recognized Scruffy and thought it was her former cat.
On her birthday, Mother sat quietly as I fed her Chinese food (her favourite). Her 'robotic' cat, Scruffy, sat contently on her lap, purring, rolling, and making the odd meow. Mother was overjoyed and lavished the cat with her undivided attention. My Granddaughter, Harper, who was sitting on my lap, made a connection with both my Mother and Scruffy, both gently touching and making noises as Scruffy entertained them. Harper, who is ten months old, kept saying 'cat', then Mother would nod her head in agreement. The robotic cat 'Scruffy' makes it easier for dementia patients like my Mother to interact, because it breaks down certain barriers, not only with families but with staff as well.
People with dementia can no longer interact the way they used to. I was surprised next when Mother took the baby's hand, holding hands they continued watching Scruffy: it was truly a wonderful sight of bonding and love.
Life is often filled with times of hardships, frustrations, and even despair, but don't take life too seriously. Ultimately, we live for those happy moments; and happiness is true beauty. Be happy and give God thanks daily, because He created us for a purpose. Enjoy the rain, running errands, or comforting a loved one. Laugh, have fun, smile, cherish the small things, and remember to count your Blessings daily.
Happy Birthday Mom.