“Going with the Flow” – Caring for Dementia and Alzheimer’s

By Mark Cimino, CiminoCare
“Dad is no longer living! Don’t you remember?” said the frustrated daughter-caregiver to her Alzheimer’s inflicted mother, “He passed away 8 years ago!” In frustration, she continued, “Now stop asking me when dad’s getting home from work!”

This conversation, and many, many like it plague thousands of families caring for a loved-one who suffers from the onset of Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. If worrying about the stress of the physical demands of caring for a loved one isn’t enough, the relationship stress when caring for someone with memory loss can be even more taxing to the family caregiver.

I can’t tell you how many friends have reached out to me “at their wits end,” asking, “How do you deal with all of this?” In the not-too-far distant past, a strong theme in the caring of those with memory loss was “Reality Orientation” and correcting a person’s “faulty reality” lest we participate in a “lie.” Well, it took a while, but experts finally realized that all this really accomplished—as it would for most anyone— was to produce in our memory-loss loved one more anger, more resistance and more withdrawal.

Today we stand upon the shoulders of the previous generation of caregiving experts, and we now have learned that the key to caring for memory loss is to simply “be in the moment” and “go with the flow.” That sounds simple, but we know it’s hard to accomplish without help and practice.

For my work, I try to keep abreast of the latest developments and writings. I recently read the book, “I’m Still Here” by John Zeisel, Ph.D., which is a great addition to materials for family (and institutional) caregivers addressing memory loss. Within the context of the overarching concepts of “being in the moment” and “going with the flow,” Dr. Zeisel provides a number of practical applications, including how to effectively manage agitation, apathy, anxiety, and aggression. He also provides the five keys for meaningful communication, and seven rules of relationship building.

So, now when mom asks—for the tenth time—“When is your father coming home from work?” daughter-caregiver can respond by “redirection” and say, “I don’t know, but mom, what shall we make for dinner? Can we make it together?” And, while behaviors will always be varied, unpredictable and inconsistent, the chances are, the family experience will be more meaningful.

I appreciate Dr. Zeisel’s discussion so much that I ordered a box of his books to share with my team, with friends and with other readers. I have 15 more to give a way. First come, first serve for 15 of you to email me to have your own copy as my gift to you.

Mark J. Cimino, is Chief Executive Caregiver of CiminoCare, a Sacramento-based assisted living provider. Mark started in his caregiving profession at age six when he and his siblings would tag along as their mother visited her in home care clients. In addition to his job, Mark is actively involved in Rotary International. His interests include hiking and doing fun things with his three boys. Mark can be reached at mark@ciminocare.com.

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