Coping With the Alternate Realities of Dementia Patients
“Expert Caregiver Carol Bradley Bursack’s first blog of this same title told caregivers to “play along” with the alternate realities of their patients. Richard Taylor, author of “Alzheimer’s From the Inside Out” and a sufferer of Alzheimer’s argues differently. Carol responds to his comments in this post. … read more”
Here is my take on this issue. First, there is a long and very unhappy history of caregivers and medical professionals “orienting” people living with Alzheimers to the great distress of all those involved. It went something like this…
PLWA: “My husband is coming to take me home.”
Caregiver: “Your husband is dead.”
PLWA: “Don’t say that, he is coming to pick me up and take me home.”
Caregiver: “I’m sorry but he’s dead– you buried him back in ’67– don’t you remember?”
That kind of “orientation” lacks compassion– always has, always will.
Nowadays, however, there are more and more people living with the diagnosis of Alzheimers who are also aware of their diagnosis and have insight into their condition. These people are actively engaged in managing their condition. For them, the “OK honey you can believe whatever you want because when you think about it, it doesn’t really matter what PLWA believe because— you know— they are demented” line is patently offensive. I tend to agree with that view.
Here is the take-home message. All genuine human caring is personal and what matters most is that the interactions between PLWA and those with whom they share their daily lives be driven by what is best for the people involved. One approach might be right today and another answer might be right a year from now. It is all about the person, knowing the person, putting the well-being of the person at the center of what we do.