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Caregivers: Try a new approach in the New Year

Wooden cube flip with word "change" to "chance" on wood table, Personal development and career growth or change yourself conceptThere’s something about the first of the month—especially January 1st—that sparks us to set a new goal or resolve to take better care of ourselves. But when you are living with someone who has memory impairments, you may find your life reset to the “first” more than once a month. And while this presents many challenges, it is also a great opportunity to try new techniques as caregivers. After all, what worked yesterday may not work today; you must think quickly and creatively on the dementia journey. Here are some examples:

Challenge: Your loved one won’t sit down to eat.
Try This: Fill a cup with small bites or finger foods and let them walk around with it – a meal on-the-go! Alternatively, whip up a nutritious smoothie that they can enjoy without having to sit down at the table.

Challenge: Apathy, sadness, depression.
Try this: As your loved one shifts from the familiar roles of parent or provider, to something new and unfamiliar, create value in their life through activities of “purposeful living”. Simple tasks like sorting items, folding laundry, peeling and prepping vegetables, helping with an easy household project, making a decorative craft – these foster feelings of contribution in a meaningful way.

Challenge: Accusations of theft.
Try this: A commenter on found success with her parents by creating a photographic inventory of their most important possessions. “I put the pictures and list in a binder and wrote the date under the pictures. Now when accusations start, I open the binder and walk around with them, showing them the photos so they can see nothing is missing. It works about 75% of the time.”

Challenge: You’ve lost your temper in frustration.
Try This: Honesty. Tell them you are very sorry, that you are trying to help, and that this is hard for you, too. Dementia specialist Teepa Snow says, “the person with dementia thinks we’re in this, and that we’re not having a hard time. It is incredibly important that you say out loud how hard this is because if you don’t tell me, you think I know… but I don’t.”