Caregivers' best gift is to accept reality of dementiaBy Mayo Clinic staff
Original Article: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alzheimers-disease-blog/MY01707
- With Mayo Clinic health education outreach coordinator
Angela Lunderead biographyclose window
Angela LundeAngela LundeAngela Lunde is a dementia education specialist in the education core of Mayo Clinic's Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at the Abigail Van Buren Alzheimer's Disease Research Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
The transfer of information about dementias, as well as understanding the need for participation in clinical trials, is an essential component of the education core.
Angela is a member of the Alzheimer's Association board of directors and co-chair of the annual Minnesota Dementia Conference. She is a member of the Dementia Behavior Assessment and Response Team (D-BART), a multidisciplinary outreach service assisting professional and family caregivers in understanding and managing difficult behaviors often present in dementia. She facilitates several support groups, including Memory Club, an early-stage education and support series, and more recently, helped to develop and now deliver Healthy Action to Benefit Independence and Thinking (HABIT), a 10-day cognitive rehab and wellness program for people with mild cognitive impairment.
Angela takes a personal interest in understanding the complex changes that take place within relationships and among families when dementia is present. She is particularly interested in providing innovative and accessible ways for people with dementia and their families to receive information and participate in valuable programs that promote well-being.
"Amid a devastating disease, there are tools, therapies, programs and ways to cope, and it is vital that families are connected to these resources," she says.
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March 8, 2011
Caregivers' best gift is to accept reality of dementia
By Angela Lunde
Ann passed away last week. She was a vibrant woman who I had become very fond of. I first met Ann about four years ago when she and her husband, Wayne, joined Memory Club. Memory Club is a support and education program for persons in the early stages of dementia and their support partner. Ann always arrived with spunk, wearing colorful clothing and happy to be alongside her husband and part of the group.
Ann's disease continued to progress and although I saw less of her, Wayne remained a regular in our twice monthly caregiver support groups.
Wayne often said, as caregivers we either have patience or we need to acquire patience. Wayne believed he was one who would have to acquire it. As Wayne accepted this undertaking, he would frequently share his "lessons learned" with the group.
Most weeks, Ann would lose her eyeglasses and each time she would blame Wayne. Wayne would ask Ann to think back to where she might have left them. And sometimes (possibly with a little frustration in his voice), Wayne would remind her of where they should have been put. This encounter never went well. Eventually, Wayne learned that if he simply took responsibility for misplacing her glasses everything went much better. And in time, the glasses would eventually turn up.
About 8 months ago, Ann began packing to go "home" — no longer recognizing home as home. At first, Wayne would explain to Ann that she was home and her packing was unnecessary. This only made Ann angry. Wayne began to just allow Ann to pack. When she finished and was ready to leave for "home", Wayne would kindly suggest that they leave in the morning when they were both more rested. Ann usually liked this idea, being a little tired herself. During the night, Wayne would unpack Ann's belongings, anticipating the next day when they might repeat the same scenario. Wayne didn't mind.
And then there were times more recently when Ann would look at Wayne and say, "Where is Wayne?" In spite of the pain that Wayne must have felt when Ann no longer recognized him as her husband, he would assure Ann that Wayne was just fine and would be home soon.
You see, what Wayne learned over the years was that the most loving gift he could give his wife was a sense of ease. Telling Ann that she lost her glasses or that she didn't need to pack because she was at home, or that her husband was right there standing in front of her, didn't serve Ann at that stage of her disease. To the contrary, it would make her confused, angry and sometimes scared. Wayne learned that the best way to honor his wife was to accept her disease, which meant accepting her reality, and lovingly joining her there.
"Love is a great teacher."
- St. Augustine