This is a post I’ve been building up to for a while, but I keep finding more and more to build in.
It is so important for us humans to feel like we have a purpose, and for those with dementia even more so. I would hate to think that nan feels like she is losing a reason for living. And I have found 3 things that can encourage feelings of fulfilment and purpose and would like to share them with you.
The first is pets. Nan has her cat, and me my rabbit. When I am having a horrible day where I could just hide in bed all day and not face life I think of my poor (fat) bunny possibly starving away because I haven’t fed him since last night. The cuddles he gives and the way he looks at me (yes he talks too!) certainly make me feel more positive about the day. He also gives great man advice, being a man himself. I find nan has the same feelings about the cat, he is someone to talk to when I am not around, she takes more care ensuring he is fed than she does herself. He not only gives her companionship, but a reason to get up out of the chair and walk around, using instinct to find out what he wants. He seems to sense that nan needs more love than I do, he will bypass me most days to talk to nan, or even my rabbit, and glare at me when I come in, (possibly because I tried to change his name, nan just calls him boy now as she forgot his name when she was in hospital). I think having a pet can give some stability and routine, to an otherwise dull and possibly lonely life. Another benefit to those fab dementia dogs I’ve been reading about (I will be post more thoughts about them another time). If your caree goes into hospital and has to be without their pet, it may be worth giving them some photo’s, they may interact with the pictures and it could keep them stimulated, as well as giving them more incentive to go home (nan was determined to get out of hospital to come home and feed “boy”). I am aware however that this could cause distress and worry, so be sensitive to your caree’s thoughts and wishes.
The second thing I’ve heard can help dementia is dolls. There has of course been some controversy about whether it is right to encourage dementia patients to re-enact a childlike state by “playing” with dolls. But I see it as more than that. And luckily others do too. It becomes more than playing, the doll becomes real. And they not only provide comfort (and are slightly more robust than a real live creature and so are possibly better for later stages of dementia), but also that sense of purpose and the ability to feel worthwhile that we all crave. I have two links if you would like to read more, the first:
is a link to the original article I read, about the use of doll therapy in care homes. The second is a link to a great twitter friend of mine, about how his mum has bonded with a doll, that has brought back maternal instincts and much more
The third and final thing to feeling worthwhile, was brought to my attention by another Twitter friend. Compliments. For all of us receiving a compliment can brighten up our day, and remembering compliments is a great way to prevent getting down. Try and write down compliments somewhere and tell them to yourself in the mirror. If other people believe this things why shouldn’t you?! One of my best compliments came from work, an existing client has asked me to be with her for extended hours. Which has helped me stop thinking of myself as a newbie, and an actual quite good caregiver. But this works the other way round too. To be forgetting simple tasks, and yourself must be devastating during those moments when you realise there’s something wrong. Try and help your caree by buoying them up with the things they can do (like nan with her knitting), and tell them often how much you enjoy being with them, how well a task they’ve done is, how nice they look today (everyday), just how bloody brilliant they are.
And remember you are too, even if no one else tells you, I will. I think you are all fantastic, however big or small your part is in caring for someone, you are making a difference. And it is appreciated.
“There are no small parts, only small actors”- I’m going to twist the meaning to fit in here, but no part of caring is small, from 24h care to long distance to visiting relatives once a week/month but you can make yourself small by putting down the things you do. So go on, smile, lift your chin up and feel worthwhile.
Ps, if you’re not a carer in any way, but you simply come here because you enjoy my ramblings, I still think you’re great and hope you feel worthwhile, because your support keeps me going. I keep a list of all the lovely people who have contacted me since I started writing, and I look at it whenever I am low. Thankyou all from the bottom of my heart.