By Phyllis DeLaricheliere, MS
The journey that caregivers are on when caring for someone with Alzheimer’s/Dementia is full of mystery, self-doubt, and loneliness. I hope this article offers a chance to reach out, seek new ideas and by reading others, learn you are never alone.
I have been a CNA for about a year now and I am working with dementia patients. There was training at the beginning before I was put on the floor but I feel like there is still so much to learn. I see families crying when they come into the unit to visit, at times it feels like a funeral home. Sorry if that sounds disrespectful. But I’m just not sure how to help the families, they seem so lost. I guess my question is what do you think is the biggest misconception about Alzheimer? Gayel C., Plymouth MA.
First “thank you” for what you do each and every day. I appreciate you sharing your feelings and your question is one that is asked often. As you have expressed so well, some family members are not sure how to behave around their loved one with dementia. You will hear them say things like; “they are gone,” or “I miss them.” I guess that can feel like they are describing someone that has passed away. Yet you and I both know they are still here, living their life, experiencing a moment and doing the best they can with the tools they have on their journey. If first we can all believe that we are prisms with many sides and dimensions. Further, if we can learn to accept that we have two brains as I teach; the JUDGE and the HIPPIE. And now with Dementia/Alzheimer’s the HIPPIE is in the driver’s seat. Then perhaps we can be open to accept that they are NOT gone and it’s NOT the longest goodbye, instead…I think it’s a chance to say HELLO and to be introduced to another side of ourselves. Perhaps to fall in love all over again, with their HIPPIE side.
I read your article about the two brains and your hippie side. I appreciate the new view and I really liked your take on it. But I’m struggling with how to approach my dad from what you said from my “hippie side.” He is doing things that are embarrassing and when I ask him not to, he gets really upset and at times very angry me. The biggest thing lately is he dips his eyeglasses into his soup, cereal, anything liquid in a bowl. I tell him not to and offer to wash his glasses if they are dirty. That’s when he gets very upset with me. How do I get him to not put his glasses in his soup? Sara M., Hanover, MA.
Thank you for writing. If I may, I want to first answer with a question for you to think about? You said he is doing things that are embarrassing. Is that embarrassing to him or you? Remember we approach things from our left brain – our JUDGE. He is now living on his HIPPIE side. So let’s have you switch to your other side of your brain. Another question to think about; your JUDGE says he is dipping his eyeglasses in his soup or cereal…………but what if I said to you he is NOT dipping his glasses into the soup. Use your HIPPIE – if that is not a pair of glasses he is dipping into the soup, what it is? Use your imagination. Those are not glasses but he thinks they are spoons and he is trying to get twice the bite!!!! Your father is so brilliant and pretty hungry. So good for him! Smile and appreciate the amazing ability he has to adapt with what he has. Hope this helps.
Send your comments and questions to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author
Phyllis DeLaricheliere, MS is a Project Manager for Fairing Way, a 55+ Independent Living Retirement Community at Union Point located in Weymouth, MA. She has made a career working with seniors for over 20 years. She is a sought after speaker/educator and travels all over New England delivering her HIPPIE message. Fairing Way – www.fairingway.org or call at 781-660-5000 for a tour today.
Reprinted from the October 2017 edition of the South Shore Senior News