Welcome back, Careblazer. Today I want to talk about the most common mistakes I see Careblazers make and how you can avoid them. This is an important topic because when we do these mistakes, it tends to:
If you would rather watch my video on this topic, click here.
By avoiding these mistakes you will be less stressed, calmer, and you will have a better relationship with your loved one. And, when all those things happen, it is much less likely that your loved one will show difficult dementia behaviors.
That’s one of the hardest parts of this disease. We can’t just tell our loved ones to do or not do something. We can’t just tell them something to get them to change.
We have to change first. We have to change our approach. When we do this, we can start seeing positive change but hardly anyone is teaching this information and sharing it with caregivers to help set you up for as much success as possible.
It’s not that you are doing everything wrong, it’s just that dementia requires you to take on something like a new language. A new way of interacting. And it’s completely different than the way you’ve been interacting with people for most of your life.
If you can reduce how often you do these 4 mistakes with your loved one, your stress level will reduce and your relationship with your loved one will improve. This is a really important topic, Careblazer.
Before I share these 4 mistakes and how you can avoid them, I want to share that today & tomorrow (August 9th & August 10th) are the very last days of my free live class on how you can lower your dementia caregiver stress using my Careblazer MAP system. So if you are reading this on the day it’s released, Sunday, August 9th, it’s not too late click here to join.
And If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed, alone, and stressed, I want to invite you to join me inside my private program where I work with Careblazers on lowering their caregiver stress so they can feel better while caring for your LOWD. The link to join is here.
Alright, let’s get started.
I want you to know that by avoiding these 4 common mistakes, YOU benefit from this. It’s not just your LOWD, it’s not just your relationship with your LOWD. YOU personally benefit because you are avoiding unnecessary stress and upset.
Sometimes the brain wants to think that if you don’t do these things that somehow the person with dementia “wins” or it’s letting them get away with something. That’s not a helpful mindset and those things aren’t true. I’ll explain why as we go through the mistakes.
You don’t have to correct your LOWD every time they say or do something wrong. This is one of the quickest ways to wear away at your relationship and make it even more difficult for you to help them and engage with them in the future. It’s also pretty energy-draining to try to correct everything.
Here are some quick examples:
Let’s say your LOWD is talking to a visitor and your LO tells them they went out to eat yesterday when in reality they didn’t go out to eat at all or maybe it was actually last week they went out to eat. There is no need to correct them - let them talk - there is no harm here and if for some reason you were concerned about the misinformation to the other person you can find a way to let the other person know when the LOWD isn’t listening.
What about if your LO does something incorrectly? Perhaps they working on a puzzle and some of the pieces aren’t put together correctly. As long as they are engaged in the activity and aren’t upset, let them continue to put the puzzle together wrong, or play the game without following all the rules. Do not risk adding strain on your relationship and making it more likely they will start to show difficult behaviors because they aren’t doing something correctly or aren’t saying things accurately.
The general rule of thumb here is, so long as their health and safety and your health and safety are not in imminent risk, then let it go. Save your energy for the things that matter. If it’s not harmful, let it be.
Just because you don’t disagree, doesn’t mean you agree.
If you’re caring for someone with dementia, then chances are they are going to say some things that aren’t true every once in a while or every day. Their brain is trying to fill in gaps that it can’t remember or can’t quite make sense of, so their brain comes up with explanations that aren’t true.
When you disagree with your LOWD and voice that disagreement, you increase the chances of your LOWD becoming angry, upset, argumentative, and in some cases even a little suspicious of you. All of those things will just make your caregiving situation more challenging and difficult AND it tends to increase the chances that your LO will show some difficult dementia behaviors. So by arguing, you are actually making things more difficult for you and your LOWD. That’s probably the opposite of what you want.
It’s important to know that just because you don’t argue, even when it seems like your LOWD is directly accusing you or saying things to make you upset, it doesn’t mean you agree with what they are saying. It just means you value peace over trying to convince them of something their brain will likely not ever be able to accept.
Rather than engaging in an argument over something they said that’s untrue, you want to follow these 3 steps:
Here’s an example:
Let’s say your LOWD accuses you of stealing their money.
You may respond with something like, “I’m not stealing your money. How many times do I have to tell you that? Remember we talked about where all your money is going?”
This type of approach:
1- disagrees with what your LOWD is saying.
2- Reminds them that you’ve had this discussion before, something they probably don’t remember at all.
3- Asks them to remember a time when you reviewed the money, something again they probably don’t remember. This approach while it makes complete logical sense, is likely going to cause more stress and frustration for both you and your LOWD.
Instead, to demonstrate the 3 steps I shared above, you want to:
1- Acknowledge what they said: “You’re worried I’m taking your money.”
2- Respond in a short calm way. “I’m going to make sure all of your money is safe so you have all you need.”
3- Redirect them to something else. "Here’s something I recently bought for you to make sure you have all you need", and point them to a coloring book, game, delicious snack, a coffee mug with coffee. And then you redirect them to that line of attention. “Here’s let’s color together.” “Here’s let’s have a snack.” “Here, let’s have a cup of coffee with your new mug.”
The exact way you respond, the exact short and calm statement you make may take some time for you to get comfortable with and find what works best. It will likely change with each new situation, but you will get more comfortable and quicker on your feet, the more you practice.
Another common mistake I see a lot is when Careblazers try to reason with their LOWD. When we attempt to reason with someone with dementia, it can lead to extreme frustration on your part and of course make it more likely your LOWD will show difficult dementia behaviors.
Many times, the brain with dementia is simply not able to reason. Whenever you are trying to reason, you are under the false impression that by presenting information in a certain way, your LOWD will all of a sudden agree or see things the way you want them to. It rarely ever works out this way. Trying to reason with someone with dementia is sort of like trying to get someone who is blind to see. It’s not going to work and both of you are going to get worked up in the process.
For using one of the examples from earlier where your LO is accusing you of stealing money, the reasoning would look like something like"
“I need access to your bank account to pay the bills. Here are your bills. See, here, this is what I paid. It costs money to live here, and pay for the phone, electricity, and internet, and food. I have to take money out to pay for those things.” Or any variety of any of those statements.
Now you can always try a simple rational response first like, “I used the money to pay the bills.” BUT, don’t stick with that rational approach if your LO pushes back. That’s a sign their brain isn’t able to grasp the full picture. If they grasp it and respond well to that first rational response, great. If not, that’s when you stop the reasoning attempts.
The goal when it comes to avoiding reasoning is to come up with any response that calms your LOWD. Any response that is able to put your LO at ease. ANd always redirect when possible.
Remember, whenever you are trying to come up with responses that calm or reassure your loved one, you have to come up with sentences that make sense in their world, not necessarily in your world. They are unable to grasp the situation as you and I can grasp the situation. That means you aren’t going to be able to explain things to them in the same way you would explain that situation to you and me.
It's not about making sense in your world, it's about making sense in their world.
And finally, the 4th common mistake I see a lot of Careblazers make is “testing” their LO’s memory.
This looks like questions such as, “Do you remember who this is?” “Do you remember what we talked about yesterday?” “What did you have for breakfast today.” They seem like simple, innocent questions, but it can lead to them feeling uncomfortable, embarrassed, or defensive. Which of course will just add strain on your relationship and increase the chances of more stress for you in the moment.
If your goal of asking these questions is to truly see what they remember rather than engaging in a conversation because you truly don’t know the answers to those questions, it tends to lead to you giving them the correct answer or correcting them if they get the answer wrong; a mistake we already talked about.
Skip the testing piece and just give them a piece of information. For example, if their child is coming over for a visit, you can simply say, “Oh look, honey, John, your son, stopped by for a visit. How nice.” In that simple sentence, you immediately help your LO know who the person is rather than leaving them feeling scared, embarrassed, or creating a situation where you will then have to give the information in the moment.
If you want them to know what day it is, rather than saying, do you know what day it is, you can say, “Today is Monday, August 31st. I can’t believe the summer is almost over.” In that simple way, you orient them to the time/day without testing them. What are you testing them for anyway, for your own curiosity? There will be many opportunities that come up through the course of your caregiving where you will be able to identify and notice decline and struggles. Don’t add on to those times by creating some of your own.
Find simple, natural ways to give your LO the information without causing attention to the fact that they probably don’t remember the information. It helps with your relationship and it helps with their dignity.
So a quick recap, common mistakes to avoid include:
CareBlazer, the practice of avoiding these mistakes takes time. You are essentially learning a new language. A new way of interacting. The goal isn’t to be perfect all the time, it’s to make some progress and start to reduce how often you are doing this. Once you start to see the improvement from doing this, it will become easier and easier to do. Choose one of these mistakes that perhaps you recognize you do from time to time and try to raise your awareness of how often you do it and slowly work on adjusting your approach.
What other mistakes would you add to this list?
I hope this has helped you. I hope it helps you build a good relationship with your LO and help save you stress.
I hope to see you inside my live class later today or tomorrow and for some of you, I look forward to working with you inside of my private program.
Keep up the good work Carebalzer.
#dementia #alzheimers #dementiacaregiver #caring #caregiverstress #dementiasupport