LOVE, LAUGHTER, & MAYHEM IN ELDERCARE FACILITIES perfectly describes what goes on in many families dealing with any kind of dementia. You certainly love that elder as a spouse, a sibling, a parent or a friend. You have shared much laughter with that elder—and you can assuredly share much more despite the dementia. And, with any type of dementia, often the mayhem is waiting just around the corner and you may not even see what triggered it—but you can learn to minimize it and maximize the love and the laughter.
As a nurse working in long term care, I discovered I am very good at working with people with dementia and I really enjoy it. I seem to fit right in with them and I’m not sure why! In my experience, elders with dementia usually become relatively content as long as you’re not trying to make them do something they don’t want to do. But, family members suffer on a daily basis as they watch that loved one die one brain cell at a time. These family members become consumed with trying to keep their loved one safe, happy and healthy—at the expense of their own health and well-being. They don’t even know what questions to ask because they’re just trying to get through today, and can’t think of what might or might not happen tomorrow. This is what helped lead me to write this collection of stories about elders with dementia that I have known, loved and worked with in my years as a nurse.
You can learn how to delay a demand, redirect an action, or defuse anger. Learn how to keep your own sanity when this elder seems bent on driving you crazy!
“He’s Selling All My Fur Coats” was the complaint of the wife of a career military man with dementia. He told me they had to prepare for death since they were getting older and, besides that, she had other coats she could wear. His lifelong take-charge manner was evident in his every decision, including the one where he decided it was easier for him to put all his pills into a bowl on the kitchen table, and just extract the ones he needed daily!
Bill, a crusty elder who definitely did not want to be at the facility, demanded beer with every meal. (“I Want Beer!”) Even though his family confirmed they did give him a beer several times daily, we could not do this so we found a way around it with therapeutic fibs, O’Doul’s, and promises until he forgot about the beer, and accepted other liquids.
I still smile when I recall the story of sweet Aunt Bea who got what she wanted when the psychiatrist politely rebuffed her attempt to give him a kiss. (“I Just Say What’s On My Mind”) I believe he learned a lesson that day!
I included the story of my father, who had Lewy Body dementia, and how I felt like I returned home with PTSD after helping him, my mother, and handicapped sister moved from Oregon back to South Dakota. (“It’s Different When It’s Your Own Father”) In those long days of packing, driving, and tiptoeing around Dad’s anger and orders, I had allowed myself to become physically and emotionally exhausted. Then, I exploded when I could take no more. Luckily, my other sister did everything right at that time so no blood was shed and apologies were accepted later. This is so common with family caregivers and it is just one of the lessons I share to teach family members and friends of elders with dementia through these stories.
You will laugh, cry, and learn as you read these stories and I believe you will be a better caregiver and more forgiving of your own mistakes as well.
About the Author
Cindy Keith’s dementia consulting business, M.I.N.D. in Memory Care (Moving In Nurturing Directions In Memory Care) helps families nationwide who struggle with a loved one with some form of dementia. She also trains staff in facilities, and is a favorite speaker at conferences and other venues nationwide.
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I applaud you for your work. I took care of my father who had dementia, and it almost broke me mentally and physically. The sadness was, and still is now that he has passed on, profound.