Shift your focus: We have a natural tendency to focus on the negatives, the things that we find challenging to deal with, the things that frustrate us and the things that have been lost. Unfortunately, focusing on the negatives can not only affect our mood and our ability to care, it can also blind us to the positive and enjoyable sides of caring.
Initially it takes a bit of effort, but if we shift our focus to the positive aspects of caring and to the retained, rather than the lost, functions, it can make the caring experience far less stressful. Simply paying attention to the good times, the smiles and the laughter can help you to identify ways to increase the enjoyable encounters and minimise or modify the challenging ones.
Focus on enjoyable activities: Try to spend as much time as possible doing things that are enjoyable with your loved one and don't forget to have fun, share a smile and have a laugh together. Seeing the funny side can help immensely.
For some people with dementia, the things that they enjoy are the same as the things that they always enjoyed – for others you might have to work a little harder to find new activities that have positive outcomes. For some people, it will be singing – research shows that music with meaning for the individual can be really beneficial. For others, it can be taking a walk, petting a dog or spending time with grandchildren. You may need to use trial and error to find the right match.
And don't forget to stimulate the senses – smells can be mood shifters and the texture of clothing or blankets can be calming or irritating. Paying attention to even the smallest signs of a smile can help you to make adjustments to your behaviours, to the environment and to the activities that you choose to engage in in a way that increases enjoyment and reduces stress.
Be social together: Dementia caregiving can be hard, especially if you can no longer chat with your loved one like you did before. Accepting that things won’t be the same as they were before is a good first step and remembering that verbal communication is just one way that we can be social with our loved ones. Don't underestimate the benefits that other types of social interactions, like smiling, laughing, holding hands, hugging, dancing or moving to music, or even eye contact, can bring to both of you. It is also really important to remember that your loved one is still an adult, still your equal, still your partner, and even though their behaviours at times might seem childlike, they still will want to be treated as an adult with dignity and with respect.
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