Senior Helpers is fortunate to have the support and expertise of Teepa Snow OT PAC®. Teepa’s unique Positive Approach to Care guides families, carers and care workers to maintain healthy and positive relationships with people experiencing the changes of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
While some of the changes related to the progression of the disease can be frustrating, and at times confusing for those of us who have not developed Alzheimer’s disease, we too are living with the person and their disease. What Teepa reminds those of us ‘on the outside’, is that what we do, and how we respond to what is happening will make all the difference for the person and our relationship with them.
What we need to remember is that our brain is not changing, we have problem-solving abilities. Was what we did the actual problem that escalated a response or behaviour that we are seeing? Does that person have an unmet need that they are having difficulty expressing (resulting in frustrated behaviours)? We need to step back and try to see it from their perspective.
It is always important to respond, rather than react. One thing we should never do is correct them or point out the mistakes they are making. They are doing the best they can with a brain that is not working like it used to. BUT they still need to feel that you value and respect them.
You may have made a plan for the day – to get the shopping done and to get to appointments together. Be prepared – plans can change without notice! These are your plans, not necessarily the minute by minute plan of the person with Alzheimer’s disease. Always have a Plan B or even a Plan C!
One thing we cannot change when we live with a person who is experiencing the changes of Alzheimer’s Disease is the effects of these changes. It is not something an aspirin can fix. We can’t change their behaviour, as frustrating as it can become. But, we can control their environment and what they can do with the skills they still have and the sense of value we can share when they participate in activities around the home. As Teepa advises – ‘Change what you can change and then let go of the rest.’
Finally, self-care – take time out, take a walk in the garden and ask for help. The person who has Alzheimer’s disease will sense your frustration and stress and react to this – not in a good way. Find ways to break the cycle of stress in yourself and be kind to yourself. You did not sign on to this in your life plan. But your life plan has also changed. You are both on a journey but it is much smoother if you take the same trail rather than trying to change your compass.