A Portable Support Group!
A Portable Support Group!
When families are first faced with the reality of a loved one with dementia, they embark on a long, stressful journey they've never taken before.
It can be very overwhelming. But you are not alone. In our new collection, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Navigating Eldercare & Dementia, our story writers offer great advice, emotional support, and practical tips to help you feel less alone and more empowered to take on the role of caregiver.
Here are previews of two of my favorite stories from the book with tips from people who have already cared for loved ones with dementia and the other issues of aging :
Accept your loved one’s new reality.
In Brenda Leppington’s story, More than Just a Blanket, Brenda's mother first exhibited memory problems in her early eighties. As her mobility worsened too, the family decided to move her into a nursing home where she would receive the care she needed. Their mom missed her old cat, Chico, so they got her one of those realistic battery-operated cats. In the beginning, she knew it wasn’t real, but over time she forgot and she asked Brenda to bring food for the cat.
That’s when Brenda realized there was no value in correcting her mother. If her mother wanted to believe she had a real cat, and that her elderly siblings were still alive, and that she needed to cook for her husband who’d been dead for years, why not? In a moment of lucidity, her mom even said, “If I think hard enough about it, I know that they are all gone. That is why I like to pretend that my life is the same. I loved my life, and I just want to relive a life where I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Who am I hurting?”
Brenda says, “That conversation changed everything. My visits took on a different tone. I would tickle the chin of her toy cat and ask her what Chico had been up to. I would take old photo albums, and we would look at each page and reminisce. I found that her memory was extremely good as long as we moved back in time about twenty years. She recognised everyone in the photos and always had a story to tell. I found a stack of old letters from her brothers that she had saved and took them to her one by one. She would read the letters as though they had just arrived in the mail and be excited to share the news with me. I no longer reminded her of who was dead or alive. What did it matter?”
Keep talking, because your loved one is still in there.
In her story, Miracles Happen, Crystal Hodge visited her dad daily in the memory care unit where he lived near her home. They would walk the hallways and he would try to “fix” the locked exit door. One night, as she sat with him at dinner, trying not to cry as he pushed his food around on his plate, he surprised her. He looked right at her and said, “Well, hi, Crys. I didn’t know you were here. How are you?”
Crystal rushed to call her sisters and her daughters, explaining that Dad was very lucid and she didn’t know how long it would last. Her daughters rushed over and he greeted them enthusiastically, asking for updates on their lives. They sat around sharing family stories that evening, and he was a full participant in the conversation.
As they left, he called out, “It was good seeing you! Thanks for coming!” Then he added, “Don’t forget I love you.” Crystal was grateful for this gift of lucidity, a ray of sunshine in the middle of her father’s gloomy Alzheimer’s.