Anticipatory Grief in Dementialand

Anticipatory grief. I first learned the term when I was in graduate school. I threw it around a lot when I was volunteering for hospice. Now that I work with families impacted with dementia I apply the term frequently. It could be described as the emotional response to the pending death of a loved one–but […]

Love and Renovations in Dementialand (aka This One is For the Dementia Spouses)

A guy once told me he never knew how much his wife accomplished in a day until she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and was unable to do what she had done for the previous thirty years. He told me that picking up the slack was a big challenge for him. 

“Dementia doubled my chores,” one woman told me.

Stop. Take a second right now. Pat yourself on the back for the added responsibilities that you’ve mastered.

Why People Give Gifts in Dementialand

I get a lot of gifts from people with dementia. And I’m not talking about abstract and intangible gifts. I’m talking about actual stuff.

Sometimes they are gifts “stolen” from another resident at a memory care community. Sometimes they are pulled directly from a dirty clothes hamper. Sometimes they are things that aren’t really useful to me–like a used lipstick.

I have been given family heirlooms only to return them to family members at a later date. People have insisted I accept horse figurines, gently used toothbrushes, expensive and inexpensive jewelry, cat beds, and rocks. People color me pictures. Once someone gave me a photo of their grandbaby so I “wouldn’t forget what babies look like since no one has them nowadays.”

Why You Shouldn’t Start Statements with “At Least” in Dementialand (And Elsewhere)

It’s true that things can always be worse, but attempting to point out how they could be worse to a person in the midst of crisis is not helpful.

The next time you try to find the right words, make sure those words don’t start with “At least.”

Don’t focus on putting a silver lining on dementia. Maybe they’ll somehow find that silver lining  in the midst of the tsunami, but it’s not for you to put it there.

To support people, you gotta meet them where they are in the moment. And trying to throw a little glitter into the conversation sometimes puts you on a different planet than the one they are currently inhabiting.

Jesus, Faith, and Coping in Dementialand

A woman explained to me that her mother, who has Lewy-Body dementia, had forgotten how much she loved Jesus. Ella, as I will call her, had always gone to a Baptist church. She wasn’t pushy or overbearing about religion, but it was important to her. She was well-respected at her church for her willingness to prepare […]