Don’t Assume Mom “Can’t”: Empowering Those Living with Dementia
At our Anthem Memory Care communities our goal is to empower our residents to live full, vibrant lives. While we acknowledge that everyone varies in his or her abilities, we believe that every resident deserves to be treated with respect and should be encouraged to participate in activities that are meaningful to them. That often includes planning activities, outings and even providing input on weekly menus at our communities.
The image on top is of a menu planning session at Chelsea Place Memory Care, in Aurora, Colorado. You’ll notice residents along with staff and the head chef, working together to plan the week’s menu. Not only are these residents capable of making these decisions, they contribute some great ideas as well.
There is a tendency, when a loved one is diagnosed with dementia, to assume that they can no longer think for themselves. Certainly, in mid to later stages, cognitive impairment begins to reach a level where decisions will need to be made for them. However, in the meantime, it’s important to make the most of your loved one’s abilities and encourage as much independence as possible.
Here are some tips to help you get out of the vicious “can’t” assumption cycle:
- Always try to give your loved one the benefit of the doubt. Take a breath when you find yourself about to jump in and help mom or dad. Of course you need to make sure what they are attempting to do isn’t dangerous, but give them the benefit of the doubt. They may surprise you.
- Engage them regularly in things they loved to do. Keep it simple. If your mom always enjoyed baking, help her make those cookies or pies, working alongside her. Let her give you directions and pointers along the way. You’ll probably learn something!
- Listen. Ask a few open-ended questions and sit back and listen. Try not to form conclusions or seek solutions. For the time being, just be present in the moment. Listening is great therapy, for both of you.
- Educate yourself. You know that your loved one will eventually begin to lose many of their abilities. Make it a point to identify resources to help you on your journey. Contact a local memory care community or mental health provider. Sit down with a specialist. Ask questions and take notes. The more you understand about the illness, the better you’ll understand your loved one and their capabilities.
- Join a support group. Right now many are being held online. Find out and tune in. You will hear some inspiring stories of some amazing individuals living with dementia.
There is no doubt that your aging loved one with dementia will need more assistance in the months to come. And, yet, a diagnosis of dementia shouldn’t be looked at as a light being turned from “on” to “off”. There are stages to this disease. That’s why it’s so important to resist those assumptions that you must immediately take over every facet of their lives. They still have opinions and ideas. Let them share them with you.
At our communities, we have many residents who continue to do things they have always enjoyed in their younger years; this includes activities such as fishing, basketball, painting, writing, gardening, reading; the list goes on. As long as they are able to do these things and enjoy doing them, we will continue to be dedicated to empowering them.