Opening our hearts to people living with dementia

Bear with the faults and frailties of others, for you too have many faults which others have to bear. If you cannot mold yourself as you would wish, how can you expect other people to be entirely to your liking? For we require other people to be perfect, but do not correct our own faults.
Thomas Kempis

When we are supporting a person living with dementia, many people say “they push my buttons”, “they are saying/ doing those things just to see how far my temper will last”, or “they could do that yesterday, but not today – they’re being lazy”.

Honestly, these are the last things on the mind of a person living with dementia.  This person is truly endeavouring to do everything right and to the level that they know it should be done in the world that they are seeing as becoming increasingly strange and unusual to them.

I know it is hard to comprehend that the actions of a person living with dementia may be less than what that person was capable of, but they are trying their best with the information that they have at this time – in THIS moment.  When I say “this moment”, I mean right now, not 5 minutes ago or in 30 minutes time, or a day in the future – dementia just does not work like that. Dementia acts differently in every moment and differently for every person. It is up to us as supportive partners to understand that every moment is a new one and to support the person living with dementia in a loving and open way – seeing our role as being the gentle wind beneath their wings to enable the person to enjoy every bit of their independence.

A person living with dementia may be able to complete a task such as making a cup of tea perfectly at one time, and then the next time get muddled about the sequence or the tools needed.  This is when we need to watch how we see things and to open our hearts.  Many supportive partners would now begin to take over that task, thinking that the ability to make a cup of tea has now been lost and that this task is no longer do-able by the person living with dementia.

Let’s try to think of it another way….Let’s just say that you have forgotten one step of this sequence, or one tool for the job?  If a friend came along and gave you a hand with that one little thing that would get you on your way again, how would you feel?  Not as helpless as not being able to do that job at all or having someone take over what you love doing completely. Actually, I am prepared to bet that you would feel quite impressed with yourself that you had completed the task , and that you had an amazing friend who could give you a hand to complete the job.

Sometimes all it takes is one word (“milk?”), one hint (“there’s the kettle”) or one little item left out (such as tea bags) to enable a person living with dementia to get the ball rolling on tasks – just a hint of what needs to happen, and then they can go merrily on their way.

This practice not only saves your relationship, but will also save time in the long run as the person living with dementia will be happier because of their success and support with independence and their trust in you, making the rest of the day flow more wonderfully -that you will be there with them, working together, no matter what.

If you or a loved one are living with dementia, I can support you with any difficulties that you may be having in this area regarding independence and/ or supportive partners seeing things differently.

Please contact me for further information or support.  With much love, Bianca