Mum is 86 and since July last year has been living in residential care. She has dementia and her memory is poor but her sense of fun, love for cake and enjoyment in family and any trip anywhere remain.She is nearby so we can visit often and we can take the dog Mr G. for cuddles for both of them.
We have learnt some strategies for making life pleasant for all of us after some traumas and tribulations along the way. Here are just a few:
Never argue – you don’t have to be right and arguing just makes her anxious. Oh boy, this took me a while but once I’d got it life changed forever
Therapeutic lying or ‘get over yourself’. If it makes her happy to believe that she is at work, lives somewhere else, is going on holiday tomorrow agree with her. it’s the feeling behind the words that matters. She may be trying to tell us something. A ‘holiday’ might mean lets take a trip to the garden centre for tea and yes, you got it, cake
Tell lots of stories- I make them up as I go along. Tales of a film we’ve seen, book I’ve read, what ‘the boys’ are up to, and always about Mr G
Don’t ask questions- expecting her to remember what she did yesterday is just daft and upsets her. The only questions permissible are in the present tense, are you warm enough, would you like tea or coffee? Or some days we can chat happily about her childhood or earlier days, it varies.
Be prepared to distract, change the subject or offer tea and cakes at any opportunity ( self-explanatory!)
Taking Mr G always works – dogs do the work for you. He loves a cuddle, is always affectionate, never argues, asks difficult questions and will sleep in the sun. Perfect.
Visits from ‘the boys’ her grandsons light up her day, and they have become experts at the list above and amaze me with their maturity and perception.
Oh and one of the best books I’ve read on the subject is ‘Contented Dementia’ by Oliver James.