“Whenever I feel my foot slipping, your faithful love steadies me, Lord. When my anxieties multiply, your comforting calms me down.” Psalm 94:19
This season of isolation and social distancing can be especially difficult for friends and family who suffer from any sort of cognitive impairment like dementia. That’s why our friends with Dementia Friendly Fort Worth (DFFW), including our very own Gail Snider, have been working hard to provide comfort and consistency with new virtual offerings for anyone who may be suffering from dementia or memory loss.
This health crisis has changed the way families are able to interact with those who are living in care communities. It can be challenging to find ways to remain close to those loved ones during such a wild and unpredictable time.
“I have walked a similar road, having had a parent who lived with Alzheimer’s for twelve years,” Gail explains, “and having done so, have some insight into the intense grief, guilt, helplessness, sadness, and stress this brings.” She adds, “I, however; have not been a care partner for someone with dementia during a global pandemic! It is heartbreaking – not being able to hug, spend time and visit with those so dear to us.”
And, for those providing care in your home, the burden has changed in other ways. “Try just sitting together, holding their hand,” Gail advises. “It sounds simple, but you might be amazed at the comfort it brings.”
If quarantine or travel restrictions prevent you from being able to reach out physically, Gail suggests other ways to reach out to loved ones by making picture books or sending cards. “These can help bring a smile on a day when they are yearning to see and touch you,” she adds.
In addition to attending the new virtual classes DFFW offers, Gail went further to provide us with a list of things to consider as well as a few tips and tricks for our First Church friends who would like to do something special for a loved one with memory loss or cognitive impairment.
Using the acronym, DELIGHT, Gail invites us to consider how best to spend time caring for loved ones with dementia:
D – Drama Let go of it. You know . . . stuff like wearing the same clothes several days in a row and telling you the same stories hundreds of times.
E – Energy Your energy affects theirs, negative or positive! Talk to them with a negative attitude and they will soon have one too! If you need to, take a time out for yourself, walk out to another room or outside just to get a new perspective.
L – Laugh and lighten the load! Do not take everything so seriously. There are many things to laugh about – those conversations that do not make sense and funny stories from the past. Laughter is good medicine.
I – Insignificant Let go of the small stuff – it if isn’t life threatening, let it go!
G – Grief and Guilt Grief and guilt are part of this journey – all the way to the end. Don’t let the guilt weigh you down. Focus on the good times. Also, do not let the grief and guilt keep you from letting others work with you to provide care.
H – Help Your loved one may need your help now more than ever before, and helping them continue to do what they “can” will make your job easier in the long run. If you find that you cannot do this on your own, look around for others who can help you manage this part of the journey.
T – Time Do your best to savor the time that is left and make it meaningful. It could be a long time; it could be short. They may not seem like the same person as before dementia, but you can still savor and create moments to fill their day with joy. You may have to work harder to accomplish this during this time of distancing for the sake of their health, but in the end, what you will hold onto are those precious moments. They may not know your name or say what you wish they would say, but you may see that emotion in other ways that warm your heart and soul.
Wondering what to do all day?
Consider these tips to help fill the days of loved ones with dementia with meaning and moments of joy:
- Music can be a lifesaver for you and a source of much joy for your loved one. Listen to music together or put music on for your loved one to listen to while you have a few moments for yourself. What kind of music have they enjoyed for many years? Do hymns of faith bring comfort? What did they like as a young adult? Are there some fun songs that incorporate movement?
- Do not forget the importance of touch! If your loved one is home with you, back rubs and hand or foot massages with fragrant lotions can be relaxing for both of you. Provide some lotion for the care staff to use if your loved one lives in a care community. Ask them to spend just a few moments giving back rubs or hand or foot massages.
- Photo albums can be a source of joy as you recall fond events from the past. “I remember when we/you…” is a much better start than “Do you remember….?”
- Adult coloring or painting can provide redirection and some relaxation for both of you.
- Take a short walk with them and point out things that may bring a smile or laugh.
Keep in mind, all of these activities will require that you remain present and engaged, if you move on to another project, so will they!
Dementia Friendly Fort Worth has launched a new program, Activities for People Living at Home with Dementia. This program meets via Zoom Monday-Friday from 10:30 – 11:00 am. Sessions are also recorded and will be available for playback at your discretion via our FUMCFW YouTube playlist. Additionally, we have virtual Dementia Friendly Chapel services , live each Wednesday at 10:00 am, with an encore on Sunday afternoons at 2:00 pm. These services are also archived on our Dementia Friendly playlist.