How do people, who are living with the symptoms of dementia and which is causing increasing cognitive disabilities, including memory loss, reduced cognitive abilities and changing emotions and behavioural responses, work together cohesively and without getting upset occasionally?
One of the things I hear over and over again from this supporting someone with dementia, relates to the quote I have added here: “You can’t change someone who doesn’t see an issue with their actions.”
This is incredibly pertinent in the home and professional care situation, as there really is no point arguing with someone who believes a different reality, or cannot remember saying or doing something.
The quote also relates to a more philosophical way of approaching life, as if someone is unaware something that have done or said has caused you to feel hurt (pre-dementia, this is always your choice, almost always not their fault that you have reacted that way), you would not be able to change them if they didn’t see an issue with their behaviour, actions or words.
I’ve worked as a volunteer and been on committees my whole life, in fact since before leaving high school, and there have always been times when not everyone can see eye to eye or agree with each other, or who misinterpret things, or we are not able to make themselves understood.. Families, friendships, and work is like that too. It is normal. Of course, these challenges are increased by the symptoms of cognitive impairments.
I imagine, having read hundreds of blogs and articles written by family care partners, it is almost impossible for people who are all living with a dementia to actually get along all of the time; I read and hear many stories of conflict between the person with dementia and the care partner, conflict over power, conflict caused by misunderstandings, conflict caused by the changed abilities of the person with dementia to communicate, and conflict caused by a family care partner not taking the time to find new ways to listen and communicate. This is common and seems to be normal… and it also happens in relationships where dementia is not present!
Working together in a group situation makes this even harder, and then when we have a difference of opinion or a misunderstanding, it is easy to over react. Of course, there will be conflict between groups of people without dementia as well, it is not different for us, but perhaps more likely.
Interestingly though, most of the time, I find we are the group who has the least conflict, perhaps because we usually give each other some ‘slack’ as we understand intimately the difficulties.
I definitely subscribe to the philosophy that people with dementia are always there, and not ‘fading away’ but that we are as John Sandblom so perfectly said in 2014: “We are just changing on way that you others are not”.
However we are losing capacity and will and do react and respond differently than we used to, we sometimes misinterpret, we sometimes forget, we sometimes misunderstand, and of course we sometimes feel hurt and we get angry. But we never mean to hurt each other, even in reality, when there is in reality no doubt we often do. I am personally finding my reduced ability to understand things, to properly comprehend, is causing me more than me grief and anguish, and have no way of knowing how to change that, other than to constantly offer an olive branch to anyone I have unintentionally upset.
In particular though, if anyone has any specific advise for a particular challenge I have, and am unsure how to manage: What should I do when someone else living with dementia believes they have heard me say something, that I do not believe I said, and that I have asked others in the same conversation if they recall me saying it (and who agree with my recollection)… BUT… We all have dementia, and we might all be wrong, and the truth could be something completely different to the two versions we believe to be true????
This is one of the big challenges for anyone engaging with any person with dementia, including those us engaging with each other!