Dear Lighthouse Keeper,
Some days, my loved one seems so clear, and so much like their normal self. Other days though, my loved one is so confused. Sometimes we get both versions on the same day! I love and cherish the good days, it gives me hope, but the hard days are really hard to navigate and it’s emotionally and physically exhausting! We would really appreciate your insight, how do we achieve a better balance?
Suffering from Dementia Whiplash
For some, minor things like eating too much sugar or not sleeping well the night before can have a noticeable effect in a person with dementia. We should also keep in mind that things that may seem very mundane to those of us with healthy brains, can have a very different impact on someone with a compromised brain.
For example, something as ‘normal’ as spending time with friends is wonderful, and many times fills our cup. Maybe a family gathering that goes on for a couple of hours-we would normally never consider this taxing, but for someone living with dementias, this can expend far more energy, possibly leaving me more confused…needing extra rest. Some of the most unsuspecting activities can have seemingly catastrophic impacts.
What helps minimize mood and behavior swings is to minimize stress for your loved one, and this can look very different than what we would normally consider stressful. Routine can have a huge impact, so establishing a daily routine helps get into a regular daily rhythm. On a subconscious level, this eases stress because they know what’s next on the agenda.
For example, every day:
• Wake and sleep at the same time
• Eat meals and snacks at the same time
• Take bathroom breaks at regular 1-2 hour intervals (even if it’s just to try)
• Start winding down an hour before bedtime with non-stimulating activities — like listening to soft music in a room with low lighting
• Create a calm and comfortable sleep environment
• Limiting sugar consumption (especially late at night)-even though its sometimes the easiest way to get your person to want to eat…or work to balance it during certain times of day. Finding alternatives that are full of flavor can help with this. One of the reasons the sugary foods are so popular, is that dementia changes taste buds and strong sugary foods are still so tasty!
As a caregiver for your loved one, you know that this will be fluid, and forcing things is a losing approach. Flexibility is going to be your best friend. Having a foundation can create a feeling of stability and security.
The Lighthouse Keeper
Leslie Rae Symonds
Keeping Moments Meaningful:
Never Argue, Instead Agree. Never Reason, Instead Divert. Never Shame, Instead, Distract. Never Lecture, Instead Reassure. Never say “Remember”, Instead, Reminisce. Never Say “I told you”, Instead Repeat/Regroup. Never Say “You Can’t”, Instead do what they can. Never Command/Demand, Instead Ask/Model. Never Condescend, Instead Encourage. Never Force, Instead Reinforce.