We all change over time. Some changes we make by choice, and some changes are out of our control. Big changes that are out of our control can be very difficult to cope with, but for our well-being, we must learn to adapt.
Some of the changes that accompany dementia can be scary. We must try to be hopeful and vigilant in our pursuit of happiness. The key to successfully maintaining a high quality of life throughout the progression of dementia is acceptance and engagement. Whether it is engaging with the Activities of Daily Living (also known as ADLs), communication with others, or the love of nature, food, or music, focus on abilities instead of inabilities. Work to understand the perspective of the person for whom you care and strive to provide the right level of support.
The best way to support someone throughout the changes that accompany dementia is to focus on what they are able to do at that moment rather than worrying about what they used to be able to do in the past. Try not to focus on the tasks they cannot complete, even if they were able to do something yesterday that they cannot do today.
Focusing on the person as they are in the present moment is a form of genuine understanding and compassion. Throughout the progression of dementia, skills may come and go depending on what the person is experiencing at that moment. Maintaining a focus on the present moment is a key element of mindfulness that will improve your interactions with those around you.
When you focus on the present, rather than clinging to the past, you approach each moment with an optimism that creates space for good things to happen. This doesn’t mean that good things will always happen, but it does mean that we won’t overlook the simple and successful moments that we might not otherwise notice if we are too busy thinking about the past. We should celebrate each moment of happiness with those who are in our care. Our presence can encourage them to continue finding bountiful blessings in their lives even though they are adapting to a new life with dementia.
By Joshua Freitas, M.Ed., BC-DEd, CAEd | Vice President of Program Development