Why do Dementia Caregiving Skills include being detectives?
Well, because it improves care of their carereceiver!
It can be challenging to figure out what someone with dementia really means. When someone with dementia asks to go home, it’s usually interpreted as a previous home, often a childhood home. But what they may really be saying is that they are feeling fear, lost or unsure, and need the feelings of love and safety they had as a child.
If you tell them they are home, they’ll often disagree or even get upset or angry. But by listening – really listening – to them through your ears and your heart you may just uncover their fears and be able to redirect the conversation to their satisfaction.
You may be able to say something like, “We’re working on it” or “Soon.” Or maybe they’ll respond to saying how safe you feel their current home is. Or gently changing the subject.
When I was completing my medical training, I read the original Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I had read a couple during college, but didn’t find them interesting. When I learned that the author was a trained physician, I was curious so read more. And found them enlightening and amusing. Enlightening because all the clues to solving the case were presented. Amusing because the way Holmes solved the case was by using the clues that a physician would look for. Physical characteristics, like stained nails from smoking are one example.
Why amusement? Because Dr. Watson as the trained physician should have been the one to come up with solution, not his friend Holmes. That’s exactly part of what is meant by the art of medicine. Not relying on scans and tests for answers, rather finding them in careful questioning and examination of the patient.
That same type of detective work is needed by caregivers. Watching body language, using your senses to really know your carereceiver because someone with dementia may not be able to do things for himself, and what he can do can change from day to day. And he may no longer realize there’s a problem or that he needs help, or even how to ask for it. Those are some of the reasons dementia caregiver skills include being detectives.
November is National Family Caregiver Month and Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Join us in honoring, supporting and helping care partners on the Caregiving Heroes Facebook Page.
To your Happy&Healthy Caregiving,
Ina Gilmore, M.D.
Founder, www.CaregivingWithPurpose.com and www.TheKnittingYarn.com
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