The individual with dementia is experiencing a tragic loss of the thinking mind. To meet them where they are, we must put down our phones, stop chatting with our teammates, and find a way to be fully present. When language becomes lost, the human is not. The soul remains, and our understanding of the person will guide us to be better detectives, communicators and advocates.
Caring for individuals with dementia is hard work. My wish for you is a never-ending journey of self-discovery that brings greater meaning to your own life and to the lives of those you care for and serve.
Cycling Without Age offers rides in an electric-assisted trishaw. Our program was featured in local Jackson Hole news. It brings such joy!
Dementia has many causes. It is not a disease, but rather the result of a disease process, such as Alzheimer's disease or heart disease. There are similarities in individuals who have dementia. For instance, short-term memory is lost along the way. And, as the brain is overtaken, other functions are also lost. A good example of this is when the frontal lobe (front upper region of the brain) is affected. That is the region of the brain responsible for judgement and behavioral function (commonly referred to as our “filter”), as well as executive functions like planning and problem solving.
When individuals lose short-term memory, and the ability to problem-solve, then living in the moment is what remains. Of course, there are memories that bubble up, and if you watch, you will notice that the individual with dementia is completely present in those moments, as well.
I would argue that “in the moment” is the most natural and peaceful state for any of us, but quieting our minds can be an incredible challenge—one that takes time, patience and practice. We are busy people, so instead of taking on that challenge and meeting the individual with dementia where they are, we often inadvertently ask them to do the impossible and meet us in our thinking minds. I have witnessed this struggle more times than I would like to think about… done with the best of intentions but sadly, sometimes done with anger and frustration.