As a caregiver, you have been introduced to a new and different world – the world of dementia. People who inhabit the world of dementia are in a very different place than those of us who live in “Reality” (whatever that is).
- Time in the world of dementia operates completely different than time does for the rest of us. First, time is not sequential in the dementia universe. Time can be the present at one moment, the past at another and the future at another. What does it matter anyway? Are they really hurting anyone by living in a different place or time? Time is only a perception. Actually there are 32 calendars in use today. Whose time is right and whose is wrong? People with dementia have actually been freed from the tyranny of linear time.
-Memory is very different in the world of dementia. Past may be confused with the present. Memory may be there one moment and gone the next. The mind plays hurtful tricks in the world of dementia. For example sometimes a woman with dementia may see her grown daughter and call her mother. Often times people with dementia are living in the past (in their 20’s or 30’s). When they see their grown daughter, they only know or recognize that they love this older woman, so she must be their mother because their daughter is still a little girl in their eyes. Example: “I don’t know who he is but I know he loves me”.
There is no successful alternative but to accept whatever the person with dementia claims as their reality – no matter how untrue it is to us. There is no successful way to “force” a person with dementia to join the “Real” world. The most frustrated caregivers are the ones who have not accepted this simple fact that the world of dementia is defined by the dementia victim.
Telling the dementia person that “I am too your wife” or “No, John, it IS NOT Friday. It is Sunday”. Or saying, “Sally, you don’t have any little babies, you are 85. Your babies are all grown up”. – these kinds of statements from the “Real” world almost always serve only to upset and distress the dementia person. However, if you say something like, “If you say so, but I’d like to be your friend”. or “It’s your Friday ,huh? What do you do on Fridays”. or “Sally, tell me about our babies”.
- Emotions work differently in the dementia universe. First, consider that the dementia person’s reasoning abilities are very limited or perhaps gone completely. There are actual changes in the brain that affect a dementia person’s ability to think. So, they are somewhat like a pre-schooler in their ability to assess, judge, make decisions, etc. Most people with dementia have some difficulty in understanding the spoken language. However, almost all people with dementia can easily pick up on the FEELINGS being expressed. It is very true that in the dementia universe, it is NOT so much what you say, but HOW you say it. When frustration, anger, and loudness creep into your voice, the dementia person is going to feel that much more strongly than the actual words being said. IF you as caregiver want to be less stressed, ten try to literally become a part of the world of dementia. In other words play along, ask them questions, have fun, but never ever correct. As a caregiver, can you accept these events in the world of the person with dementia? IF you can accept that time is different, memory is different, and emotions are different, YOU as a caregiver will be much happier than constantly trying to squash the dementia persons in the “Real” world mod that s/he now knows little or nothing about.
Melva Sherwood, RN