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Creating Moments of Joy, Jolene Brackey

   Jolene Brackey has been an activity director in special care facilities for dementia for her entire career. This book is written out of her experiences with those residents. This book has much to offer caregivers caring for loved ones whose impairments are less progressed. I highly recommend it. Here are some of her insights into caring for a person with dementia.

     When someone asks you where their wife is, your automatic assumption is that they do not know where their wife is. When someone with a dementia asks where their wife is, they also do not know where she is. There is a factual answer, and there is a more satisfying answer. The best response is not necessarily a factual one.
     Don’t argue and don’t correct. For dementia patients who have progressed beyond the initial stages, it is pointless to try to bring them into your reality. If they could be in the reality that you recognize, they would be. Since they cannot come to you, you must go into their reality. If they are in the year 1935, the best you can do for them is to answer questions as if it is 1935. Where is my mother, where are my children, and other questions of this type are best answered as they would have been at whatever time the patient is at this moment. Where is my mother? Where would she have been? Shopping? At a PTA meeting? Good answers. Where are my children? The patient is not asking about their grown adult children. Where would her children have been? Still at school? At a scout meeting? Great answers.
     Ask yourself, Is the thing this person is doing or thinking harmful physically to her, me, or anyone else? If the answer is No, then go with it. If she is wearing the same dress every day, is it harmful? No. Ok, maybe it is smelly. So get her 13 dresses that look like that one and wash the one she wore yesterday. You both win.
     Learn that when you are caring for a person with dementia, they are always right and you are always wrong. Their facts may be different from your reality, but their emotional reaction to their reality is valid. You just took a blanket away because it is dirty. In their reality, you took a beloved or comforting possession from them. They are right and you are wrong. Get them 13 blankets so they always have one while the others are being cleaned. Don’t argue, don’t correct, and don’t try to bring them into your reality.
     Try not to accept blame for anything bad that happens to your loved one with dementia. You are the most important person in their life, a major part of their support system; they trust and rely on you. You cannot be the person who took their car because then you are tarnished and less valuable to them. Blame bad things on the government, the doctor, the police, or some other third party.
     Don’t remind them of an appointment multiple times. Remember their time sense is different from yours, and their short term memory is impaired. Tell them once that they have an appointment at noon. Then arrive early to pick up them so you will have time to get them ready to go. Do not remind them that you told them to be ready. If they had remembered, they would have been ready. It’s cruel to remind them that they are in the process of losing their minds.
     Conversation should always be centered on remote memory or on concrete things that are present in the room. Most dementia patients can talk about their childhood experiences or about the flowers in the vase on the table. They may not be able to talk about your children that are not present or last week’s dinner party.
     Use Magic Words such as I’ll take care of it; I do silly things like that, too; you are such a special person; thank you, I couldn’t have done that without you. [These words are magic with other family members also.]
     Jolene’s company is Enhanced Moments. For more information or other suggestions, visit her website  www.enhancedmoments.com
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