Apologies for the long delay. Been trying to get on top of life, plus I got a job and I’ve been learning more. Quite a bit to share eventually!
Nan has been in fairly good spirits since I last wrote, still making jokes but the mood swings have been very accentuated. I guess because I’ve been so focused on the up sides lately, that when we hit a low it feels more frustrating. For example the other day my nan moaned to my mum about me, but didn’t know why, and so stopped talking to me. Kind of hard to win her round, but as soon as she realised dinner time was approaching she became nice as pie. Still not sure if it is the reality time she lives in that caused her sudden change, or if she thought that being mean to me before dinner would mean I’d burn it.
So the mood swings have made me realise maybe I should talk about communication, and the importance of being able to anticipate the highs and lows of emotion your loved one is going through. I understand that none of us are mind readers (If you are please come forward and give us some tips!) But there are ways of noticing how your loved one is feeling without them communicating verbally. Verbal communication becomes more and more difficult for someone with dementia so it can be hard to adapt to look for non verbal communication. Here are some examples I look for with nan;
Arms crossed- mean nan is cold so a cup of tea and a blanket. Wish we could have the heating on for her but who can afford to have the heating on in July?!
Stroking or patting her hair-does not agree with what is being said. Best to change the subject, or offer chocolate
Peering at the clock-this one seems obvious. Nan wants to know the time. But I have learned that those with dementia struggle to make sense of what the clock means. This is where it would be ideal to have a number clock. Unfortunately nan is very attached to her mini grandfather clock so I’m loathe to change it. If I see nan looking at the clock I tell her the time, and what is expected to be on the TV. (This is where my amazing memory comes in handy, reading the telly book every week gives me an idea of when to prompt nan for her programmes)
Dusting-If nan starts cleaning I know she’s agitated, may not know why but I think a lot of the time it’s just down to frustration at not knowing what to do with herself. So this is when our activity box comes out.
Drawers slamming-If I hear more than two drawers slamming I know nan has lost something. This is one I have to intercept quickly as if she looks in more than a couple of places she tends to forget what she is looking for and gets upset.
Cupping her face in one hand-I had to ask nan once if she had toothache as it looks a very uncomfortable position but no, apparently this is a comfort for her and means she is relaxed.
Death stare-I have done something awful, and must rectify. Usually solved by buying fish and chips.
Invading personal space-If nan comes more than two feet close to me I know she wants a cuddle, or thinks I need one.
Refusing food-nan tends to tell me she is not hungry when she is in pain. This is frustrating as I know she needs food to keep up her strength. So we compromise with painkillers in exchange for food. Nan worked in a hospital so she is aware that some meds need food to work properly.
There are of course other clues as to how a loved one is feeling; tapping, pacing, tutting etc. and each person is unique so get to learn your loved ones habits to prevent bad situations.