Do you know a caregiver who needs help? (All caregivers need help.)
Show them Letting Dementia Be, written by moi, in the May 2016
issue of the Humboldt County Senior News and scroll
to page 7, or read it right here:
Advice from a former caregiver:
Letting Dementia Be
by Karenna Wright
When my husband Alan was diagnosed with dementia, life threw me into the deep end of the caregiver swimming pool and instructed me to sink or swim. Sometimes I sank, but most of the time I flailed about powerless, trying to get a grip on whatever horror presented itself throughout the day.
At first, I reached out to prevent Alan from drowning, but he went under often, heading slowly but steadily toward the bottom.
There was no way I or anyone else could rescue him from this dreadful fate. Dementia would drown him, take his life, and there was nothing I could do about it. But neither could I be the silent bystander. However, I could be my husband’s witness. I could let his dementia be. I could simply let it exist and accept it for what it was. I could enjoy the time we had left.
I vowed I wouldn’t force him out of his dementia by expecting impractical outcomes. I wanted to preserve as much of his dignity and joyfulness as possible. Nor would I try to teach him anything; people with dementia can’t learn, so why cause unnecessary distress? Neither would I ask if he remembered things like giving me a zebra print hat for my birthday — recent events don’t stick. And finally, I wouldn’t suggest things like reorganizing his files; he wouldn’t be able grasp such an idea.
What I would do was soothe him, read to him, give him special treats — hot chai and oatmeal raisin cookies from the local coffee shop — hold his hand, listen to him and validate him, and tell him how much I love him.
Once, when he was in a dementia fog, I watched as he tried to pick up a spoon. It took him a minute to locate it, then another to move his hand toward it, only to miss the target, fingers grasping lightly at the tablecloth. He showed no sign of frustration or anger. He merely sat back, looked at me and smiled contentedly, resigned.
This is how we let dementia be. So much more in life deserves our attention than this disease. There’s chocolate, laughing children, cuddly kittens, tall trees, and breaths of fresh air after the rain. There is wonder, delight and joy. But mostly there is love. Let dementia be.