vitamins and minerals

Thinking Like Grandma

Your grandmother has dementia. And your mother is having fits. You can hear them sometimes.

“Mom!” said your mother to grandmother. “I told you three times…” and she leaves.

You might think the problem is that Grandma has dementia. The real problem is that mom doesn’t know what dementia does to a person. She does not know the basic ways in which dementia makes a normal life possible.

If your mom learned, say, five ways dementia changes a person, she wouldn’t blame Grandma so much. So here is a list.

Five ways dementia changes people:
1. It takes away short-term memory, so people forget a lot, sometimes in a minute;
2. It prevents people from thinking logically, step by step;
3. It causes people to lose the skills they once had;
4. It makes them unable to remember your name;
5. It makes them lonely and scared.

The changes brought about by dementia occur due to physical changes in the brain. These are not personal choices. People don’t forget by choice, make mistakes by intention, and forget you out of spite.

These are just the normal things that happen in dementia. You are healthy, but if you fall, you hurt your knee. Your grandmother has dementia, it hurts her brain. You probably can’t help his brain, but maybe his doctor can.

You can all help grandma. You can have the right attitudes.

Five helpful approaches:
1. Kindness: it helps everyone in the family;
2. Patience: taking things slowly works well with dementia;
3. Speak simply: one thought at a time;
4. Accept imperfection: in yourself and those you care about;
5. Cuddles and rest: lots of both.

Often the people closest in age and relationship to the person with dementia fare the least. This is because most of us don’t really want these changes and we fight them. Sometimes that means we end up fighting both the person and the disease, even though we can’t change either.

It just brings a lot of extra stress, tension and pressure into an already difficult situation. If it’s your mother, it’s because of her own mixed fear, anger and helplessness.

It can happen anywhere in the family – between husband and wife, between generations. Dementia makes everyone feel a little helpless and lost. It’s frightening.

I’ve often seen the teenagers in the family do the best. One of the reasons is that they are more flexible. They are not afraid of the dementia of an elderly person. They may even find it interesting and new, which is always my attitude towards someone with dementia. I want to learn them. To see how they are doing. To understand how they think and what is going on in their memory. I want to know how they manage to be in a good mood, if they are. How they stay sane. What they can appreciate. How they adapt, even if they don’t know they adapt.

Younger family members are often friendlier to much of this. The older ones just felt like they really knew that older person who then begins to change, sometimes drastically, due to dementia.

This is where things get tricky. And that’s where you might be able to model what a good interaction with dementia is.

Don’t forget that as a young person you have a lot to teach us. Don’t mention it, okay. Be it. And many blessings upon you. Grandma will certainly be grateful to you.

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