Yes, this story relates dementia and lizard. It might be a stretch, but here are my thoughts.
Our speaker at church last Sunday told the story of deciding it would be a great idea for him, his wife, and their two young sons to begin sitting on the front row of church. Obviously he did not discuss this with his wife in advance. I can bet she would have vetoed that thought! Nonetheless, the front row was soon occupied by this well-dressed, handsome family unit. All was well, until….
Upon looking at his youngest son reach in his pants pocket, the dad was shocked to see him pull out a lizard. Yes, a lizard. Right there on the front row of the church sanctuary. Now how is a parent to respond to such an occasion? I have to say, he handled it amazingly. In fact, he handled it just as I recommend we handle uncomfortable situations with our loved ones with dementia. Answer—he did NOT make a big deal of this lizard on the front row of a large Sunday morning church service.
“Son, where did you get the lizard?”
“I saw it on the sidewalk when I was leaving Sunday School,” he replied.
The dad said, “Now what are you going to do with it?” Of course the young guy had an answer.
“Keep it,” and then he proceeded to put it back in his pocket and continue with Sunday morning worship.
This dad could have gone a little berserk at the appearance of the lizard. He could have taken his son out of worship and made a huge deal about bringing a lizard to church or even putting one in his clean pants pocket. He did neither. He calmly asked questions. He accepted the answers, and the lizard was not a problem. (Who knows, maybe the lizard became a Presbyterian that day?)
When your loved one with dementia does or says something embarrassing, go with the flow. If it is appropriate to laugh with them, do so. Maybe you need to ignore it. Maybe you need to ask questions about the situation that allows them to explain. But never, never, never, yell, raise your voice, point your finger at them, or cause them to feel less of a person in any way. If you do, I’ll know!
Carol Howell is a Certified Dementia Specialist and Endorsed Life Coach with an emphasis on Creative Music Experiences. After her husband’s closed-head injury in 1996 and her mother’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s in 2006, Carol began her study of the brain and the various forms of dementia that exist. Through her not-for profit company, Senior Life Journeys, she is actively involved in the lives of individuals who are caregiving for a loved-one with dementia as she helps them develop caregiving techniques. Carol’s latest book, Let’s Talk Dementia-A Caregiver’s Guide, is an Amazon #1 Best Seller, and it is an easy to read guide for caregivers of individuals with dementia. She also wrote the best seller If My Body Is A Temple, Why Am I Eating Doughnuts? It tells of the amazing miracle that caused her to lose 100 pounds. You can follow her blog—Something to Ponder—at www.seniorlifejourneys.com.