Last week I did an interview on ABC digital radio with the lovely Ashwin Segkar, to share my journey with my 91 year-old mother’s Alheimer’s Dementia, and how MemBo Noticeboard came into being.
I was not properly prepared for his last question, so I want to share my answer with you now.
His question was: “What thoughts, insights and observations would you pass onto someone who is on the same journey?”
My answer is this.
1. A bit like on a plane – you need to pull your own oxygen mask down first – so first and foremost, be kind to yourself.
Whatever you are doing, if you are helping someone with dementia you are doing a great job!!!
And if you need to take yourself off to a silly movie or a Day Spa, do it!
2. Accept help.
In 2008, my son was living away and was in a very serious car accident.
Being a “coper” when we returned home for 6 months of rehab, I had all kinds of help being offered, but I didn’t know how to accept it.
We are not superhuman – but don’t forget too, in accepting help, you make that person feel good, and strengthen those bonds.
3. Be kind to the person you are supporting.
Seems obvious, but sometimes it can be very hard to sustain. I know that I experience times where I just feel love and kindness for my mother, and other times, perhaps when I myself am feeling stressed, I’m just not as kind as I could and she deserves me to be.
4. Don’t forget he or she doesn’t have a choice in how his or her journey with Dementia plays out.
You and I do.
5. At all costs, avoid the phrase “don’t you remember I already told you bla bla bla”
It actually took me a long time to really “get” this. If mum already knew the answer, she wouldn’t be asking the question!
And yet, it can be very difficult to resist the temptation to use that phrase.
6. Don’t sweat the small stuff – it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
If her makeup isn’t quite right, or her hair not done.
If he has spilt a drop of breakfast on his shirt or hasn’t shaved, it’s OK.
Help where you need to, and leave the other stuff alone.
7. Last but not least, follow the KISS principle in all things.
The more information you give, the less chance there is of hanging onto that important piece of information he or she needs.
Who do you know that’s just not managing the day to day because of memory problems?
Whether it’s because of dementia, an acquired brain injury or a mental illness – the result is stress and worry for individuals and for families and carers.
We can help!