The “Can do” Approach to Caregiving
We’re such social creatures, aren’t we? A hug at the right time or an unexpected smile can brighten a bad day. Being isolated in time-out is a child’s worst enemy. And a friend taking time out of their busy schedule to have a genuine conversation can mean the world.
When dementia sets in, this social nature doesn’t go away, even if your loved one doesn’t respond the same way they once did. Verbal reactions may decline, but the same love, affection, warmth and care make life meaningful. That supportive care is also essential to the well-being of people who have dementia or Alzheimer’s.
People with Alzheimer’s or dementia also tend to reflect the mood, tone and attitude of their caregivers or people around them. So, when you find yourself on the verge of a negative reaction (it’s inevitable – we’re only human, after all!), take a deep breath and reevaluate.
As author Charles Swindoll once said, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” As caregivers, shifting to a “Can Do” perspective – focusing on what you’re loved one is able to do, rather than his or her limitations – can help keep that relationship warm and encouraging.
Here are a few ways you can intentionally put that “can do” lens on life:
- Identify the “Can Do” list. It is important to understand your loved one’s stage of dementia and to encourage continuing regular activities. Not every day is going to be filled with activities, but take advantage of the ones that are.
- Keep it simple. Consistency is a major player in this stage of life, so establish routines for your loved one to make this phase of life both peaceful and happy.
- Recognize your limit. Patience is the other key player in a caregiver’s daily life, and it won’t always be easy. If you know your threshold and can identify that you are being pushed toward it, you can take steps to reset your positive mindset and prevent a meltdown by giving yourself a moment of grace to take a deep breath.
- “These are a few of my favorite things…” Life isn’t just about what you are able to do, but what you enjoy doing… and that doesn’t stop when dementia sets in. Someone who loved to garden may not remember what the flowers are called, but may still love taking daily walks outside and describing the flowers they see. Find what your loved one loves to do and try to fit that in.
There is so much a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia can do, so keep that in the forefront of your mind and adjust as you need to. You may be pleasantly surprised by the activities and conversations you have if you keep a “Can Do” approach.
How do you “reset” that “Can Do” perspective when having a tough day?