Loving Someone Who Has Dementia

How to Find Hope While Coping with Stress and Grief

The test of first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.  F. Scott Frizgerald 

This is the third book that I have recommended on my blog.  The first one was, This Naked Mind and the second was, Younger Next Year.  You can click on the titles, to read the reviews of those books.  As the other two have done, this book has helped me a lot.  This one in particular, when it comes to caring for Catherine, who has a form of Dementia called Early Onset Alzheimer’s.  She was diagnosed at the age of 53 and just turned 61 this past May.

The first chapter really set the tone for me and answered a question I have had for years.  The writer puts her finger on the issue of ambiguous lost.  How absence and presence can coexist.  Having a loved one that is here and not here at the same time.  It also covers in great detail how to take care of oneself while taking care of someone else.  I talked about taking care of oneself in another blog called, Are you taking care of yourself?  

That was more of a practical guide whereas this book comes at this topic from more of a mental standpoint.  A striking statistic, is that a person caring for someone with dementia is 63% more likely to die from stress, than someone at the same age, that is not caring for someone with dementia. The author does give more insight by demographics, broken down by race and age. This is not something I particularly need to be worried about.  But the bottom line is that taking care of someone with dementia is dangerous, if you do not take precautions.

I am the type that likes to control situations and this book teaches the reader how to perceive and manage the situation.  To control my frustration towards them, I have named the disease, Allie. When I would get upset, I would direct towards, Allie, the disease, and not Cat. I learned in this book, that folks with dementia are still very perceptive so they pick up on the stress and it literally stresses them out.  I have always told myself that I am doing the best that I can.  I  now include that thought process for Cat.  She is also doing the best that she can, at that moment in time.

Just because she was able to do something one day or a minute does not mean she will be able to do that same task right now.  The opposite is also true.  I try to allow her to do as much as she can, but since those abilities vary I just need to learn to go with the flow.  It sounds simple enough but it is critical to only speak in loving terms and praise her accomplishments.

It teaches you to find meaning in what she calls, Delicious Ambiguities.  That phrase came from Gilda Radner, of Saturday Night Live fame, only months before her death.  Our brains have problems dealing with ambiguities.  I want to find answers and solve problems.  My flying career taught me to always do what is necessary to land the plane safely at destination.  In this case, even though the outcome will be the same for all of us, I need to focus on doing, all that is possible, to have the smoothest of flights along the way.

She also discusses in detail what is known as the Psychological Family.  Since it is critical for the caregiver to have a support system, she suggests that you find friends and neighbors to be part of that psychological family.  This is very important if your actual family members are unable or unwilling to provide the support that you need.

There were so many hidden gems in this book so if you are caring for someone with dementia I highly recommend you reading this book, most likely several times, as I have.  The best part of the book was chapter 7 where she went over her 7 guidelines for the Journey.

“There is only one way, go within”, Letters to a Young Poet’ by Rainer Maria Rilke

  1. Find meaning
  2. Balance and Control with Acceptance
  3. Broaden Your Identity
  4. Manage Your Mixed Emotions
  5. Hold On and Let Go
  6. Imagine New Hopes and Dreams
  7. Take the Time to Mind Yourself, Mind your step as said at the end of the moving walkways at the Amsterdam Airport.

The picture to the right was taken in Nevis while touring the downtown area.  I now always have a loving touch for Catherine no matter where we go in the world.  Please SHARE this blog below and send me an email to Flyprkr@aol.com and I will include you to my email list.




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