Monday, April 9, 2018 – I have read Bob DeMarco’s writing on Alzheimer’s Reading Room and this one on touch and kindness was especially spot on.
Another person, Peter Berry who has dementia, puts out a weekly short video of things related to what he’s experiencing at that time, that he thinks will help others. He is a very positive person, determined to live his life the best he can. Here is the link to his you tube channel. Peter Berry’s You Tube Channel. The latest video, his 40th weekly video, is the main one I want to direct your attention to. At least to start off. I’ve never thought of doing what he talks about in the 40th weekly video and I will be from now on!
Things have been a little rockier lately with my dementia than usual along with other challenges in our life. I would appreciate prayers. This isn’t going away but please pray that God gives me and Roy the strength and the wisdom to handle this the best way we can, the way He wants us to. Through the rough times and the good times God is our Rock. I am so thankful for that.
One of the biggest challenges Alzheimer’s Caregivers face is how to communicate effectively with someone living with Alzheimer’s disease. This challenge is particularly difficult when a person living with dementia becomes nasty and mean. The importance of touch and kindness should never be underestimated in Alzheimer’s and dementia care.
THE IMPORTANCE OF TOUCH AND KINDNESS IN DEMENTIA, By Bob DeMarco, Alzheimer’s Reading Room
At the beginning, my mother turned meaner than a junkyard dog.
She said mean and nasty things to me every day.
This was new. My mother had never engaged in these behaviors with me before.
I had a leg up on this one because I studied communication in college and graduate school.
I understood that when my mother said something mean or nasty that it was the Alzheimer’s at work. It was not hard to make this cognitive leap. She had never done it before, now she was. What changed? Her brain changed. It was sick.
Even though I understood what was happening, it still hurt when she said those things to me. She did make me feel angry and sad. Every day. Day in and Day out.
I knew I had to do something. I finally realized something had to change — the first thing that had to change was me. I was going to need to learn how to label my feelings so I could control what I was feeling. Instead of mad, ready to take action.
I also decided I was going to have to do something to change Dotty. I already knew that trying to reason with someone suffering from Alzheimer’s is like trying to jump over the empire state building in a single bound.
Here is a quick description of one of the things that I did start doing. And yes, over time Dotty stopped saying those mean and nasty things to me.
Everyday, early in the morning, I would bend down and say something nice and positive to my mother. While doing this,
I put my forehead on her forehead.
I tried to get her to smile and say “yes”. I call this the positive reinforcement part of the process. When I say something nice, and when she responds yes –it anchors her.
I started to do this first thing in the morning several years ago. But not before I discovered that it worked and stopped her from being mean and vicious. I do it now in the same way I do many things — before it is needed. I call this getting out in front. I also call it getting the day started on the right foot. I don’t sit around and wait for the crap to hit the fan.
This is what I started doing in an effort to make my mother feel more secure and to stop saying mean things to me. My hope was that if I could make my mother feel more secure, she would stop being a junkyard dog.
When my mother would say something mean and nasty to me like, “get out, I can take care of myself”.
I would smiled at her, put my head against her forehead, and say something positive like,
“I am here, and I am not going anywhere”. While my forehead was still attached to hers I added something like,
“We are both here to take care of each other, we need each other”.
I was hoping beyond hope that somehow my mother would come to believe we were a team.
The instances of my mother’s meanness and nastiness have declined dramatically. Today, she is more like the sweet person I always knew.
I believe the combination of touch, positive reinforcement, the calmness in my voice, and the smile did the trick. It really wasn’t hard to do. I did need a lot of practice on the emotional side. I had to get control of my emotions. I had to learn to meet meanness with Kindness.
On the other hand, the words came easy because I meant and believed every word I said.
Over time I learned how to communicate in a new, different, effective way. This is pleasing to me, and makes me feel happy.
I relearned something I already learned a long time ago. You get more with sugar than you do with vinegar. I guess you could say, I became a better person along the way.
I could thank Alzheimer’s for this. I won’t.
Thank you, Dotty.
Don’t be afraid to try it. I’m confident it will change your life.
Click on the links below to go there!