With dementia on the rise, it is very uncommon to hear of anyone who doesn’t know someone afflicted.
It is a group of diseases that none of us wants to get to know, but many of us will. Whether it’s a family member or ourselves, dementia will touch us. The most common of the dementias being Alzheimer’s, most people have some idea of what this illness is.
My mother passed away after a decade-long illness with dementia. There was nothing easy about this experience for any of us, most especially her. She knew something was happening to her brain and it terrified her. What she needed at that time and in all the years since, was care and compassion and to be assured that she would be comfortable, safe and loved.
When it became clear that she would be best cared for in a long-term care facility, my father moved her in along with her familiar, most-favoured belongings. We got through each step in the process together and with the help of the care home community. And again, while there was nothing easy about this, what made it better was the support of my mother’s caregivers. Friendly smiles, connection, acknowledgement of this trauma in our family.
Over the years, some of my mother’s closest friendships disappeared. Friends were unsure what was causing her mood changes and they didn’t know how to ask. It still hurts to think about, but I also realize the enormity of telling a friend you’ve noticed worrying changes and want to know how to help.
If you know of someone who has been diagnosed with dementia, here are some ways you can help them:
- Stay in touch: A brief, regular visit will help your friend or family member feel loved and comfortable. Even if they are no longer speaking, they are still seeing and feeling. Show them familiar photos or tell stories about favourite memories.
- Music: Almost everyone loves to listen to music. For the person in your life who is affected by dementia, sing, play music, and, if their care home provides it, take them to a musical performance. If their care home doesn’t already have a music program, why not suggest one?
- Reach out: The family will be going through many emotions over the course of their loved one’s diagnosis and illness. Reach out to them. A quick phone call or a cup of coffee will keep them encouraged and feeling remembered.
The best way you can help someone afflicted with dementia, is by reaching out. No matter how you choose to do it, let them know you care.