The end of the school year is almost here and students everywhere are cramming for exams. It’s the season for all-nighters as some textbooks are being cracked open for the first time all semester! 

 

After a year of learning, students are tested to see just how much they’ve learned—or how much they can retain at the end of the year.  But there is a group of people who should never feel like it’s exam time, and that is anyone who has dementia.

 

 

People who have dementia should not feel that they’re being tested.  You’re probably thinking “most people with dementia don’t go to school, so what are you talking about?!?”

I’m talking about every day conversation.

 

For people with dementia, ever day conversation can start to feel like an exam.  Much of our basic conversation is comprised of questions and answers.  But those questions typically rely upon memory.  Sometimes, there is even an implication that the answer can be right or wrong….and guessing the wrong answer can make someone feel embarrassed or not very smart.

 

For someone with dementia, a typical conversation starter such as “what did you do last weekend?” suddenly becomes a test.  It relies upon short term memory from a few days ago.  It is a fact-based question where the typical response recounts an itinerary or agenda.  But if you can’t remember what you did yesterday or three days ago, or an hour ago, suddenly this typical conversation starter feels like a test.

 

Questions such as “did you go to the market?” imply a right or wrong answer.  Someone with dementia might recognize that answering “yes”, tends to lead to the follow up question “what did you buy?” which becomes another test of short term memory.  Sometimes people resort to saying “no” to such questions just to avoid being asked any follow up questions.

 

When having a conversation with someone who has dementia, aim to ask opinion based question. The beauty of an opinion based question is that it cannot be right or wrong—it is your opinion.  Instead of saying “did you go to the market?” you can instead ask “do you enjoy going to the market?” Once you get a conversation started about the market, you might help to trigger the memory for your loved one who can suddenly remember “I went to the market the other day!”  When not faced with the “test” of trying to remember, they may be better able to access the memory.

 

Asking about opinions or feelings keeps the conversation open and in the present tense.  Opinions are always in-this-moment, as we all reserve the right to change our opinions over time. Opinions don’t rely on short or long term memory. Opinions are not inherently right or wrong.  Expressing opinions and feelings rather than talking about facts and dates will allow someone with dementia to more fully participate in the conversation without feeling like they’re being tested.

 

So while this may be season for final exams, leave that to the students who are cramming, and let your loved ones with dementia have a free pass with no tests!

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You know your mother needs assistance, but she refuses to even consider it.  She insists that she doesn’t want to lose her independence. You’re frustrated because you’re trying to be proactive and prevent a crisis, but your mother won’t hear of it.

 

Be reassured!  You are not alone! 

 

Your mother is not the first senior to bristle at the notion of receiving help.  In fact, most of our homecare clients here at Warm Embrace started out exactly like your mother—Estelle sure did.  Estelle started out adamantly insisting that she didn’t need or want any help at all.

 

I can hardly blame Estelle for resisting help.  Very few people are quick to put up their hand and say “yes, I need help”—and that is true at any age.  Our North American culture places a high value on independence, and many people tend to define that as “doing everything myself.”

 

Estelle rejected homecare because she was afraid that if she can’t do it all herself, then she won’t be considered independent.  In her mind, that would mean being one step away from a dreaded nursing home.

 

We define independence differently. 

 

We believe that independence doesn’t mean that you do it all yourself; instead, independence means that you get to choose how everything is done.  Independence means that you’re the boss.  You make your own decisions.  It doesn’t mean you physically do everything; it means you have control in how it is done.

 

 

Homecare doesn’t take away a senior’s independence. In fact, it often does the opposite.  It often grants senior more independence. 

 

Estelle did not lose her independence, and that’s probably why she now adores her two favourite caregivers. Estelle did not lose anything; she gained. 

 

Estelle benefited from:

  • Gaining two new best friends
  • Enjoying stimulating conversation
  • Eating healthy meals and having more energy
  • Re-establishing her social connections because her caregivers can drive her to events
  • More physical activity by keeping up with her caregivers—instead of just sitting watching TV
  • Improved sleeping patterns since she’s no longer napping all day out of boredom

Your mother could benefit from homecare just as much as Estelle.  Your mother can go from just barely surviving to actually thrive.

 

What NOT to do

When you mention the idea of homecare or introducing a caregiver, don’t highlight what your mother can’t do.  Don’t point out all the activities she’s no longer managing, even though it may seem obvious and glaring to you.

 

Do NOT point out that:

  • She has lost her licence and no longer drives
  • The only healthy meals she eats are the leftovers you bring
  • She hasn’t been to a social event in six months
  • Her housekeeping standards are slipping

What to do

Highlight all of the gains your mother will benefit from when she has a wonderful new caregiver in her life. Point out how her life will be even better.

 

DO point out that:

  • She can now go anywhere she likes without worrying about calling a cab
  • She can go to social events and visit friends she hasn’t seen lately
  • Her caregiver will be a new friend with whom to play scrabble
  • She will enjoy having a visitor in the lonely winter months when she doesn’t usually get out
  • Even when you’re out of town, she’ll still have a consistent visitor
  • She will be the boss and SHE gets to decide what she does, together with her caregiver

When seniors see that they are not giving anything up, they are not losing anything, they are more receptive.  Seniors are often keen to accept new friends and live life more fully.

 

Help your mother to see all that she stands to gain, and the conversation may be easier.  We’ve helped countless families through the exact same struggle you’re experiencing, and we can make suggestions specific to your situation.  Call us for more ideas!

 

A senior benefits from homecare by suddenly eating better meals and that senior now has more energy to independently manage more tasks. Another senior might benefit from our accompanied transportation and now that senior can attend all the activities and functions she once enjoyed.  She is regaining her life back; she is not losing independence!

 

When seniors recognize what they can gain from homecare, they are more receptive.  They are gaining a new friend who will ensure that they enjoy each day and live it to the fullest. 

 

The good news is, we managed to win them over and now they are clients who absoultely adore their caregivers and can hardly imagine life without Warm Embrace.

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