As I mentioned in an earlier blog, the people who love and care for a person with dementia will experience a riot of emotions – bewilderment, sadness, frustration, anger. However, if you can embrace one simple truth and engage with that truth every time you are presented with illogical, irrational or just plain irritating behaviour, you will hopefully be able to protect your own emotional well-being.
I was homeward bound travelling along the M4 after a particularly gruelling day on the road. Radio Four was helping to keep me awake and I was listening to an interview about dementia. I can’t remember who the expert was, but when he uttered the words…
“…YOU CANNOT REASON WITH SOMEONE WHO HAS NO REASON…”
…my lights came on. Obvious isn’t it, but I can honestly say that hearing this simple phrase changed the way I viewed dear old Geoff and all of us were the better for it.
When Geoff was eventually taken into care, I visited him regularly and on fine days we’d have a stroll to the pub for a shandy. He loved it and so did I. We were comfortable in each others company, even though by now he did not know who I was. He used to say “I don’t know who you are, but I’m sure you’ve been good to me”. I didn’t bother to explain, we just enjoyed the moment. One day he said “you know, I don’t know where I live; do you?” I replied “haven’t got the foggiest mate; let’s have another pint”. We both laughed. But we didn’t have another pint, alcohol + dementia = disaster, so one weak shandy was quite enough.
Once you learn the knack of not reasoning, it can come in handy, but do please be very careful…
I was visiting dad in the care home and one of the residents was in a real state. He imagined that he needed to to get to the station to catch a train home. He accosted me for help, so I responded with “no worries mate, I’m going to the station after lunch, I’ll give you a lift”. He thanked me, calmed down and rejoined the queue for lunch. By the time he got his lunch he had forgotten about the train, and when I bid him farewell, he was still relaxed. One of the ladies running the home expressed sorrow that they were unable to placate anxiety in the same way. Evidently the professionals are not encouraged to lie. In this case, there were risks associated with my actions and if the chap had remembered that I’d promised him a lift, I would have made a bad situation even worse. This is a professional viewpoint .