Dr. Richard Gunderman, an MD and PhD for the Radiology Department at Indiana University posted an article on The Atlantic that resonates with caregivers:
“We should dwell less on lamenting what dementia patients are incapable of and focus more on bringing out and celebrating what they are capable of doing.”
Like anything else in medicine, helping someone suffering from dementia requires understanding, compassion, and dedication. Care needs to be tailored to each patient’s personality, life history, and stage in the development of the disease. When this is done well, new possibilities open up. What might have been an atmosphere of regret and hopelessness centered on the disease’s relentless progress can be transformed into an upbeat outlook that celebrates abilities, rejoices in moments of recognition, and looks to the future with hope.
When you watch inspirational videos that friends post on Facebook or email to you, there are common themes. One of the most common inspirational themes is about a person who experiences extreme hardship and instead of dwelling on it, they focus their talents and abilities to do something great. They don’t let themselves be defined by their hardships.
These circumstances affect everyone around them in a powerful way. Team Hoyt is a wonderful example:
The circumstances of others can be easy to write off, but in doing so, we are writing off our own abilities too. When challenging situations arise, we have a choice. We can make a situation the best it can be, or we can let the inevitable play out.
Awareness, understanding, and affection are not merely the outputs of some inner dynamo. They also emerge in response to what others do, say, and feel. In some cases, unresponsiveness may say less about a patient’s disability than a failure on our part to offer something worth responding to.
As professional caregivers, helping those with Alzheimer’s and dementia isn’t a choice, it’s a calling.