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The Gift of Dementia


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3 Keys to flourishing and growing as a caregiver to a loved one with dementia: Clarity, Compassion, A Strong Credo.

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The Gift of Dementia

  1. 1. A Mother-Daughter Journey with Wendy Terriff
  2. 2. Key #1: Clarity Key #2: Compassion Key #3: A Strong Credo
  3. 3. The Gift of Dementia I am not a dementia expert and this is not a ‘how to’ manual for the care of someone with dementia. It is a guideline to flourishing as a person and a caregiver. During my mother’s nine year journey through dementia I was gifted with many valuable growth opportunities. The three keys I share here were the most powerful for me. You will find your own.
  4. 4. The Gift of Dementia Although I speak from the position of looking after a much loved mother, my experience is also relatable to those of you who are being called upon to take on a caretaking role with someone with whom you have a more distant relationship – perhaps an even hostile one. If so, it remains an opportunity to grow, and perhaps even heal old wounds.
  5. 5. The Gift of Dementia Statistics from the American Alzheimer’s Association indicate the following:  Some form of dementia is the 6th highest leading cause of death in people over the age of 85 in the US 1 in 8 older Americans have Alzheimer’s
  6. 6. The Gift of Dementia Over 15 million Americans provide home care for people with some form of dementia According to Teepa Snow, an expert on dementia, there are at least 90 known forms of dementia. They require various kinds of treatment. (See Resources Section)
  7. 7. The Gift of Dementia At a time when we hope to begin enjoying the freedom of retirement our world can suddenly turn upside down by being suddenly catapulted into a care giving role. If we aren’t prepared, it is possible to end up feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, exhausted, sad, angry or resentful. There is another way though – one that honors all concerned.
  8. 8. The Gift of Dementia Be Open to New Possibilities Possibility thinking minimizes stress. When we expand our awareness we open to happiness.
  9. 9. The Gift of Dementia Be Open to New Possibilities Contracted states invite stress. Overactive stress hormones weaken the immune system. Sick people do not make good caregivers.
  10. 10. The Gift of Dementia Be Open to New Possibilities Clarify your boundaries. Clear boundaries leave room for the spaciousness of new possibilities. This is a crucial key to maintaining a healthy brain. One of you needs to have one!
  11. 11. The Gift of Dementia Be Open to New Possibilities Our brains are designed for novelty. Having really clear boundaries allows the brain freedom to explore newness. This is not only a way to find innovative ways to be a healthy caregiver, but it’s also a great dementia prevention step for yourself.
  12. 12. The Gift of Dementia Key #1 CLARITY
  13. 13. Key # 1 CLARITY The most powerful gift I received in my journey through Mom’s Alzheimer’s was to be rigorously clear about my own life priorities, so that I could offer her the best of me.
  14. 14. Key #1 CLARITY Although helping my mom in any way I could was very important to me, I also knew that no amount of suffering on my part was going to stop Mom’s dementia. She would have been horrified if I damaged my life trying to look after her.
  15. 15. Key #1 CLARITY Clarify What You Can and Can Not Do Decide what you CAN DO as a caregiver and still maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle. No one is served if you run yourself into the ground trying to help someone else. You must first help yourself. Then you have something of value to offer.
  16. 16. Key #1 CLARITY Clarify Your Boundaries Identify what you really WANT TO DO for your parent. Most of us want to help ease their pain. Take the time to be specific about what you really want to say YES to in your parent’s care.
  17. 17. Key #1 CLARITY Clarify Your Boundaries Identify what you are NOT WILLING TO DO, even if you are able to do it. If other family members are involved it is especially important to stand up for yourself. Learn to say NO to what will put your own life balance and health at risk. If this is challenging for you then it is an opportunity to create healthy boundaries.
  18. 18. Key #1 CLARITY Clear Focused Intentions Work  Set a clear intention of what you want. Living from a clearly focused positive intention is very powerful. It allows your brain to explore new possibilities to achieve your goal and keeps you moving forward.
  19. 19. Key #1 CLARITY Clear Focused Intentions Work Get very clear about the standard of care you want for your parent.
  20. 20. Key #1 CLARITY Clear Focused Intentions Work Even if you want to quit your job and become a full time caregiver, if you don’t have the finances to support that decision then it is time to create a very strong intention to find a good care home where your parent will be happy.
  21. 21. Key #1 CLARITY Clear Focused Intentions Work Create a daily 5 minute practice of visualizing that care. Use all of your senses to fill in as many details as possible, including the price, location and the amenities the home offers. This allows your brain to search creatively. Surprising options begin to appear.
  22. 22. Key #1 CLARITY Intentional Thinking Action Steps  Identify the price range she or he can afford. Understand that your parent will survive in a subsidized care facility. Ask your parent’s geriatric specialist what subsidized care services are available.
  23. 23. Key #1 CLARITY Intentional Thinking Action Steps Become your parent’s advocate. Be clear about your wish list and then contact each of those agencies and continue to ask for exactly what you want. It is amazing how much is available that can be obtained by asking.
  24. 24. Key #1 CLARITY Intentional Thinking  Be flexible. Many government agencies are ill prepared for the influx of patients who need complex care in assisted living facilities. More and more private care homes are being built but not everyone can afford them. If your parent cannot, then do the best you can within the choices that are available.
  25. 25. Key #1 CLARITY It is deeply hurtful when we are overwhelmed by dementia driven attacks from a parent who demands that you sacrifice your life to improve hers or his. It is an unintentional part of the disease: a care home may be the best solution for all. They can provide 24/7 care.
  26. 26. Key #1 CLARITY You have a bigger responsibility in midlife: it is time to become an active role model of how to live a life of happiness, balance and purpose. If you ruin your own life in trying to battle a disease driven demand, nobody wins. Stand strong in doing what is best for all.
  27. 27. The Gift of Dementia KEY #2 COMPASSION
  28. 28. Key #2: COMPASSION “It has been stated many times that survival is of the fittest, but when one reads Darwin closely this is not the case. Rather, …… it is “the survival of the kindest.” ~ James Doty, Washington Post, 03/26/2011
  29. 29. Key #2 COMPASSION His holiness the Dalai Lama states: “If one wishes to make others happy, be compassionate; if one wishes to be happy, be compassionate.”
  30. 30. Key #2 COMPASSION Relate to the person and not the disease. Inform yourself about what it is like for the person with dementia. It is so much easier to deal with erratic and sometimes heartbreaking behaviors when you understand what is happening from her perspective.
  31. 31. Key #2 COMPASSION When you begin to understand all of the confusing neurological changes that are going on in her brain you will see that she often feels under attack. It is very scary for her.
  32. 32. Key #2 COMPASSION Recognize that your mood affects your loved one’s. Leave your stress at the door. Even when she could barely say 3 coherent words, my mom would always become immediately agitated in reaction to someone else’s negative energy. It felt like a personal attack to her and jolted her into defense mode.
  33. 33. Key #2 COMPASSION Choose compassionate understanding during those challenging incidents that could very likely be a result of your parent’s fearful reaction to something you or someone else has unwittingly initiated.
  34. 34. Key #2 COMPASSION Choose compassion with hired Care Givers who say or do something that upsets you. Frame your message to them in ways that reflect your appreciation of the fact that they spend many hours per week looking after your loved one, doing the difficult jobs that you aren’t willing to do. Recognize how challenging their job is.
  35. 35. The Gift of Dementia KEY #3 A STRONG CREDO
  36. 36. Key #3 A STRONG CREDO What we believe affects our thoughts, our attitudes and our actions.
  37. 37. Key #3 A STRONG CREDO  We are not bad people if we don’t take full responsibility for another person’s life. On the contrary, we can only take full responsibility for our own. Stand strong in your ability to respect the dignity of someone else’s life path. You don’t have to fix it. There is nothing to fix.
  38. 38. Key #3 A STRONG CREDO Consider the possibility that there is a much grander plan for your loved one’s life than anything you might be able to conceive of. We are not actually responsible for the experiences that another person has.
  39. 39. KEY #3 A STRONG CREDO Choose forgiveness instead of resentment, bitterness or anger. If there are unresolved issues, take advantage of this opportunity to work through them. Remember the power of compassion? Use it to assist you. Get professional help if you need to. You will be happier as a result – and so will your loved one.
  40. 40. Key #3 A STRONG CREDO Accept that all experiences are opportunities to grow. We have no way of knowing what kind of growth is happening at a soul level, even with dementia. Embrace the lessons that you have been gifted with during the journey. There will be many.
  41. 41. An Invitation I believe that the opportunity to become a caregiver has nothing to do with dementia or any other life threatening illness or challenge. It’s an invitation: an invitation to step up into a wiser you – the you that you dream of being.
  42. 42. An Invitation It will be different for all of us. Taking even one step towards finding a better way of caring for and loving yourself and others will improve not only your life, but the lives of all those with whom you come in contact. I can’t think of a better gift than that.
  43. 43. RESOURCES To find out more on how to create healthy, loving interactions with your loved one, contact her geriatric specialist to discover the kind of dementia she suffers from. Ask for a list of local support services for her and you. Support is crucial for both of you.
  44. 44. Resources Google Teepa Snow:  dementia-building-skill-handout (The most thorough lay person’s guideline I’ve ever come across). Teepa Snow is a dementia expert who offers very specific guidelines for healthy interactions with people with dementia. I heard her speak after my mom passed away. Had I heard her in Mom’s early stages it would have reduced my early stress load ten fold.
  45. 45. Wendy Terriff is an award winning speaker who works with Boomer women who are ready to live in their greatness. Access Wendy’s FREE ebook – Wisdom Keepers Book of Quotes. Go to http:/ Wendy works with midlife women in transition who are ready to repurpose their gifts and talents and step up into the active role of being feminine Wisdom Keepers by harvesting, owning and generously sharing their experiences and vast wisdom.