There are times when caring for someone with dementia is the very definition of frustration.
It is so maddening when a loved one repeatedly asks the same question for hours on end, seeming to disregard the answers that you provide. Or the times when your loved one decides that he or she is going to go—or not go—somewhere, regardless of the reasonableness of that decision? Trying to get dad off the couch to adult day care so you can go to work can make you want to tear your hair out. Or convincing mom that her doctor’s appointment is not at midnight on Saturday night can leave you wanting to shut yourself in a closet and scream.
OK. We’ve all been in these and similar situations, but the question remains how to deal with the frustration that dementia-related behaviors lead to without losing our sense of love and respect for our loved ones.
Writing in The Upper Room in 1991, Donna Dickey Guyer noted that she was able to find a way to remain loving and respectful of her 99-year-old mother (when she herself was 75 years old) by recalling her mother’s care for her when she was a child.
Ms. Guyer wrote that to her, honor and respect meant that she was to have patience, tolerance and love in difficult days. To her, it meant doing everything she did for her mother—emptying bedpans, changing sheets, preparing meals that would not be fully eaten– from a place of love, just as her mother had changed her diapers, prepared food for her that she’d rejected, and kept her clean and safe when she was a child.
The frustrating behaviors aren’t going to magically disappear, but what can change is your understanding of them. Respect comes from a place of love, whether it’s love of a child who’s acting out, or a parent who’s engaged in dementia-fueled behaviors that are frustrating. When it happens, try to disengage for a moment, take a couple of deep, cleansing breaths, and remind yourself that the behavior isn’t aimed at you. It’s the result of a brain that’s not working as it once did. Then see if you can’t deal with what’s happening from a place of loving respect.