-by Julie Fleming
I recently shared this image on the Facebook page for Alzheimer’s Caregiver Minute:
It is, hands down, the most popular image I’ve shared, with (as of today) over 1100 likes on the Alzheimer’s Caregiver Minute page, 33 comments, and 2435 shares. I’m not surprised, because Teepa Snow‘s quote is a direct challenge to the often-expressed belief that dementia robs a person of who they are, makes them say and do things that they’d find humiliating, and leaves them essentially as an empty shell. A secondary belief is that the way we as caregivers and bystanders react to someone with dementia can give them as much dignity as possible despite the disease.
Honestly? Even typing those sentences makes me sick to my stomach. That’s how much I disbelieve those perspective.
Here’s what I do believe:
As I came to realize that those and other behaviors (eating with his hands, for example) were driven by the disease, I realized that he was doing the very best that he could with his eroding brain. When he says or does things that aren’t appropriate according to our ordinary social mores, I might explain so that others can understand that we are seeing a disease in action, but I no longer apologize. My father is disabled, and his disability is not inconsistent with dignity.
So, what does it mean to treat a
person who has dementia with dignity?
Author: Julie Fleming
Julie has been providing love & care for her father, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease in the fall of 2011. And she's had to learn it all the hard way. Sound familiar?
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