Have you ever felt like you have the patience of a saint? Now that you’re dealing with a loved one with dementia you discover your patience seems to run thin too much of the time. You thought you were a patient person, what happened?
There were plenty of times in the beginning stages of my Mom’s dementia that made me want to pull my hair out. I didn’t know enough about dementia or Alzheimer’s to know what was happening wasn’t her fault. Still, I thought if I was patient enough she would cooperate. That wasn’t the case.
Having patience with someone who has dementia is nothing like being patient with your spouse, kids, friends or co-workers. The reason it’s different is simple. A person with dementia has no reasoning skills or the ability to understand what they are doing. You might have to tell them the same thing ten times and they still don’t understand. Now you’re losing your patience. It’s annoying to have to repeat something over and over and they still don’t get it. Right?
Look at it this way. Remember a time in school when you had a difficult time understanding a certain subject and the teacher had to explain it over and over? You still may not have understood after all the explanations. The teacher didn’t scream at you because you didn’t understand. Instead, he/she probably tried another approach to helping you understand. That’s what caregivers have to do.
The person with dementia is never going to understand so it’s up to you to find another approach to help them. It means you may have to take them by the hand and lead the way because they didn’t understand you wanted them to walk down the hall or walk into the bathroom. The simplest tasks are just as complicated as the difficult tasks; there’s no difference to them.
Depending on the situation, you might have to get firm with them only you do it in a loving way, not in anger. Never ever use anger when you’re caring for a person with dementia. If you feel your anger starting to build walk away and compose your thoughts and emotions. Saying hateful and degrading things to that person is more detrimental than you realize. There is always a part of them that knows something is not right with how they are being treated. They may not be able to tell you that, instead they might retaliate by hitting, shouting and crying because your anger has agitated them and probably scared them.
Don’t think because they say and do abusive things to you that it’s okay for you to treat them the same way. They don’t know any better. You do!
There’s nothing worse than a caregiver who abuses a person with dementia whether its verbal or otherwise. If you know of this happening to anyone at home or in any kind of a facility, you must report it. If you’re not able to control your own temper and emotions while caring for this person, then you need to find someone to help you out. You can also attend a support group or find one-on-one help to teach you how to take care of a person with dementia. There are many resources to help with that specific problem.
When I felt frustrated dealing with my Mother I had to either walk away and regroup or I had to leave all together. There is never a win-win situation if you get into a confrontation with someone with dementia. I found, in some cases after composing myself and getting my emotions in check, my mother usually didn’t recall there was ever a problem.
Caregiving is not just about being patient. It’s about learning different ways to communicate. It’s learning new and different skills to help a person cope with their dementia. It’s about LOVE.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-5, 7