I am a writer who specializes in dementia. I am always seeking to learn more about dementia in its various forms, and I want to help people who, like me, are loving and caring for someone with dementia. More and more I have come to realize that dementia and ordinary life share many “personality traits”. Today let’s look at a very common trait between ordinary life and dementia.
We have all heard the phrase, “What you see is what you get.” That is very seldom true. We might envision life in a certain way, but reality plays out much differently. For example, we see the new job as being exactly what we have always sought, and reality shows all the flaws and struggles that actually come with the new position. We think the new boyfriend or girlfriend is so much better than last week’s option, and then we see personality traits that drive us bonkers. The get rich quick plan seems fabulous, and then we find we have been scammed. We do not always get what we see when it comes to life.
Dementia is the same way. Many folks enter the home of an individual with advanced dementia, and they see someone who can’t remember, can’t feed themselves, can’t read, and can’t complete a sentence. They decide what they SEE is not worth their effort. This person has nothing to offer, and they choose not to bother themselves with visiting. The truth, however, is this individual is more than what you see.
Take the time to sit beside them. Position yourself on their dominate side (it will increase their ability to comprehend), place your hand on their shoulders, use the palm of your hand to rub a figure eight onto the top of their back, and look directly into their eyes while you smile broadly. Ask them about high school or growing up or what they did for a living. You might be surprised at what you learn. Be patient while they tell their story. Do not try to help with words, do not correct facts, and do not look away. Allow them to enjoy your undivided attention, and you might discover that “what you see is NOT what you get”.
Hope that gives you Something To Ponder.