Wisdom to Guide

Through 13 years of training and working with people living with dementia, their families and care partners, I've learned something from each person. Below are some of my key 'ah-ha' moments. Think of these as anchors that hold your boat steady through the calm days and the stormy ones.

  • The person they were before the disease is the person they deserve to be with the disease. What can we do to support them in maintaining 'self'?

  • Step away, take a breath, remind yourself you are the one in the relationship that has the ability to change your reactions and behaviors. Then step in and try again.

  • Those with dementia take our emotional cues. Set the tone with a smile, eye contact, positivity, empathy, and a kind touch. This will go a long way.

  • These individuals are adults with rich backgrounds and experiences who need your partnership. Never treat them or think of them as a child. Always treat the person in front of you with the respect they deserve as an adult.

  • Seek their strengths, not their weaknesses. Strengths are where to start building a positive day, your relationship and a supportive environment.

  • Never argue with someone living with dementia. You will never win. Both will always lose.

  • Learn to say "I'm sorry" with a genuine tone. That will go a long way to defuse an intense situation.

  • Behavioral expressions are their way of telling you something - expressing an unmet need. You must be the detective to figure out what that need is. If they are screaming or pacing or unloading all the drawers, they are not just saying "I'm in a bad mood". They may be saying "I am in a bad mood because I hurt/I'm scared/I can't find the words/I'm looking for something but don't know what/You treat me like a child". This is a puzzle that you have to help them solve.

  • Their reality is the world you must get comfortable with. Listen to them, and join their journey as a partner. As their journey changes, so must yours.

  • Those living with dementia often try to connect past thoughts with the current situation. She may be thinking about her mother which translates into asking where her mother is. Rather than just trying to distract her from the thought, recognize that she is likely having thoughts of her mother and would enjoy reminiscing about her. Ask her to tell you about her mother, about her childhood with her. Help her go to positive thoughts of her mother.

  • Just because something doesn't work once doesn't mean it was a bad idea. Try again with a different approach.

  • "Everyone living with brain change will shine when given the opportunity." Teepa Snow

  • You need as much support, love and attention as your loved one. When did you do something for yourself last? When did you last do something you love? Reach out to those around and ask for help. Share this site with them.

  • “Dementia doesn’t rob someone of their dignity, it’s our reaction to them that does.” - Teepa Snow

Emotionally take their hand and walk together in this journey.