"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one." Albert Einstein
I've had the privilege of taking care of my grandmother for the last two weeks. It has been an enlightening experience. I would like to share some insights for those who are going through a similar situation.
My grandmother is 97 is years old. She has moderate dementia and is not able to ambulate. Due to her dementia, her mind is often struck by unpredictable concerns. She conjures up elements of the past and threads them into imaginary situations (delusions).
Delusions cause fear, anxiety, frustration and anger, but I found ways of reassuring her amid these imaginary "situations" that her mind creates. In doing so, I prevented her from dwelling on thoughts that were scary and disturbing to her.
One day she told me there was a river close by. She was deeply worried because she did not know how she would cross that river. I told her that somebody had built a beautiful bridge. Now it would be safe and easy to cross the river together.
The river was something she imagined. The bridge was a solution I created in response to her concern over the river. She agreed with me that now there was no need to worry and soon forgot about it.
On a few occasions she asked me about her sister. The truth is her sister died a few years ago, but I did not remind her that she'd passed away. It would have caused more distress and anguish. During the last few years of her life, her sister had been mean to her because she was afflicted with dementia herself. Hence, I decided to focus on the times when they were inseparable friends. My grandmother smiled --her sister's love came back to her like a wave.
My grandmother has a recurrent obsession now: she says she bought a pair of shoes and somebody has stolen them. I told her I put her new shoes away in a safe box to make sure nobody takes them away from her. She calmed down at once.
I constantly reassured her by reframing her imaginary reality. I held her hand and we laughed together a lot as I found the funny side of every situation. Laughter is good for the soul. Bear in mind that your loved one may end up mirroring your own emotions, so make sure you find reasons to laugh together.
My mother is startled to see how my grandmother's spirits have soared during my stay with her.
My strategies may not work for every single person with dementia -- my deep bond with my grandmother may have helped in making them successful-- and they may not be effective under all circumstances. Once medical causes have been ruled out (e.g: constipation, urinary retention, pain, infections, etc) medications are necessary if reassurance has failed. But the purpose of this blog post is to simply share my personal experience in dealing with her delusions.
Another aspect I find interesting and intriguing about my grandmother and any person who has dementia is how they travel across time and space. Their whimsical minds can get anywhere.
Caring for a loved one with dementia engages your imagination, but there are times when you feel emotionally drained and stressed.
Don't forget to take care of yourself. Find time to unwind and do things that you love.
I hope this post will be helpful to those who are facing similar challenges.
Share your experience here.