Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Remembering for Those Who No Longer Can

How often have you found yourself in this situation?  You are visiting someone whose spouse, parent, or friend is suffering from dementia due to health issues or medication and your acquaintance says, “I don’t know this person any longer.  They don’t know me.  Where did all the memories, all the good times, go?”

Compounding the situation is that those suffering from dementia may become angry or even threatening toward their caregivers.  Children who have loved and been loved for years are now strangers.  Spouses who have been involved in long-term loving relationships are outsiders or even antagonists.  Friends no longer have common bonds built on shared interests.

How does a caregiver deal with the sense of alienation and rejection that comes from such situations?
First, the caregiver should reach out to partners who can give perspective.  These may be hospice workers, family, friends, or pastors.  These people help the caregiver to understand that this is the sickness or the medication speaking and not the loved one.  They can pull the caregiver back into reality and affirm that person’s commitment to and love for the one with dementia.

Second, the caregiver must take care of himself or herself by depending on those same helpers to get rest and respite.  Even having someone to stay with the loved one so that the caregiver can take a walk or go shopping can be refreshing and invigorating.  Fresh air and a change of venue make a gif difference.

Third, the caregiver can make a commitment to become the custodian of the good memories.  They are not lost if the caregiver can continue to celebrate and remember the joys, struggles, and cherished moment that they have shared with the parent, friend, or spouse.  As long as the caregiver remembers and shares those memories with others, the good times are not lost.

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