At the Carers’ Drop-In this week, carers discussed how they can promote wellbeing and contentedness in their relatives. With input from group facilitator, Sally, we acknowledged that dementia causes brain damage that can alter mood and lower stress thresholds. However, the same things that put us in a bad mood can also affect the person with dementia – bad weather, being patronised, being in pain, being hungry, being bored – and we should always consider why the person is upset before we try to respond. Then we need to be self-conscious about how we respond and not simply placate the person but perhaps divert, distract or empathise with him/her. “Isn’t it a miserable day. Are you feeling fed up? Shall we think of something nice to do?” Our response might involve putting on an act and telling therapeutic lies. Often relatives resist telling lies but there can be a case for telling the person what he/she needs to believe to keep him feeling safe. secure and respected. One such instance is the person with dementia accusing the relative of stealing her clothes. This might arise because the lady feels out of control and confused by losing things. She can’t think logically, because of her dementia, so her emotional response is to blame the carer. The carer might respond, “I’m sorry your skirt has gone missing. And I’m sorry if I’ve taken it by mistake. I’ll go and look for it”. The carer should then re-appear with one of the lady’s skirts and hope that the re-appeared skirt is acceptable. Why have an argument about a false accusation! It will likely upset the carer more than the person with dementia. Two books that can help carers are ‘Keeping Mum’ by Marianne Talbot and ‘Contented Dementia’ by Oliver James. Getting another person’s perspective on your relative’s mood changes can also be helpful.
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