Change is hard for many of us. It disrupts your routines; your well planned schedules and can cause many a fight. Change is sometimes for the good but sometimes, because of the bad, we are forced to change. When we are young and our brains were growing and and we crave the routine. Toddlers who miss their naps are very difficult, giving a green cup instead of the blue cup is a just cause for hysterics, and we just shake our heads and know this stage will pass. Those reactions stay with us but we learn how to manage them. We know what will trigger a meltdown and buy a couple extra blue cups so we are never without.
As we age we are more entrenched in our routines. We have been having coffee or tea the same time and way every morning. We like our eggs cooked a certain way and the toast to be the correct crispness. Imagine your brain is not working well. All your routines are changing because someone needs to help you cook or dress. You can’t remember that you only ate your eggs one way and decided today to have them scrambled instead of fried. You thought scrambled was communicated but since your brain is sick it was not communicated in a way the person cooking your eggs understands.
Your conversation may be something like this…
Person cooking – ‘But you always have your eggs like this’
Person with dementia – ‘No, I don’t. Do you think I don’t know how I like my eggs?’
Person cooking – ‘My entire life you ate them like this! I am trying to do what you want, tell me what you want’
Person with dementia – ‘You are very frustrated but the more stressed you are, the less your brain works correctly. You can’t tell them – the words fail you and things start to become more and more difficult. Imagine the following scenario.
All you wanted was a cup of coffee with two sugars. Who in their right mind would put salt in the sugar jar? Why is someone messing with you – what a mean thing to do! Of course you know the difference between salt and sugar but someone is setting you up. They want to move you from your home of 40 years. You know these people, they look like family but you just can’t place their names. They tell you that you are paranoid but you know deep inside that something is not right and you are right to be worried.
This is how someone with dementia may feel. We never want to treat them like the toddler but we need to prepare in much the same way. If they have a favorite outfit – buy multiple so one is always clean. Use contrasting colors on jars and plates and label in large letters which is salt and which is sugar. In the end the time and energy you spend reducing the choices your loved one needs to make will ultimately increase the success of your day. You can set them up to succeed – it takes a lot of work but in the end it is worth the time and reduced frustrations for everyone.