I think we tend to look at dementia as being only negative. We see the forgetfulness, the changes in mood and behavior, and the frustration, but we rarely recognize any good that can come from it. It’s not typically viewed as a “good” diagnosis to have. And while I’d agree 100% that this debilitating and heartbreaking disease is not something I’d wish on anyone, I do want to recognize one of the blessings that we were fortunate to experience as a result of my mom’s diagnosis.
Have you ever watched children playing a game together when one of them made a mistake and asked the other for a do-over? Maybe they were taking turns playing a video game or they were playing a board game where they had to try to roll a certain number with a dice. One of them didn’t get something quite how they wanted to, so they asked their playmate for a second chance at getting it right. In a lot of ways, dementia is like this. And as a caregiver, you have access to practically unlimited do-overs when it comes to getting things right with your loved one!
Let’s say your loved one is having a rough day when you are visiting. Sometimes all it takes is stepping out of the room for a few minutes, and returning as if you just arrived for the first time. I remember times when I would visit my mom and I could tell as soon as I walked in that things were not going well for her. I could usually see it in her eyes and I knew that nothing I said or did in that moment would help snap her out of it. So instead, I turned around and walked out the door, sometimes grabbed a cup of coffee and a snack from the kitchen, and then returned as if I hadn’t just been there. I’d enter the room with a smile and a warm hello and bring the goodies over to where she was sitting in order to win her over. Oftentimes that was enough to change her mood and get her back to a more positive place, and we’d go on to have a much better time together.
I can't say it worked every single time, but it helped more often that not. And I didn't just practice do-overs in instances like the one I outlined above. Sometimes I needed a couple tries at getting the right answer when she asked questions like where her parents were or why my dad wasn't there at that moment. I didn't always know how to respond to things the first time around, but I did try to improve on my answers that didn't land well with her initially. And when I found things that worked, I used them over and over again until they didn't work anymore.
So are there opportunities in your life for any do-overs with a loved one who has dementia? Have you been taking advantage of this little trick? Share your stories below! I’d love to hear more about the ways that you've turn negative situations into positive ones.