Seeking to Understand: Avoiding A Misunderstanding

Have you ever been misunderstood? You are trying to make your wishes known, but, for some reason, what you are trying to communicate is not understood. If the same miscommunications happened over and over, what would you do? You would probably get frustrated to the point of doing anything to get your point across. It can be hard to understand why there is a misunderstanding.

Seek to Understand

It is stressful for people working in long term care, in the middle of  the quarantine still in effect, with the loosening of restrictions. The stress felt by persons with dementia still looms larger. Residents probably have the same feelings of frustration and sadness, but to a greater extent. They are missing out on their regular routine, which, at this point, has changed. They might be able to visit with loved ones except for in short spurts outside and with masks. It may be more confusing than ever. A person with dementia may be confused about what is happening, while seeking comfort, understanding, and safety.

Being Supportive

What can be done to continue to support those with cognitive challenges, while maintaining sanity? Part of it is showing the person that you care. Workers who are provide the crucial care in this challenging time do care. All of the sacrifices to support persons with dementia can take a toll. The sacrifices and support make all the difference for those who are in their world, but cannot come to ours. We have to come meet them where they are. As  C.S. Lewis noted, a friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words. This is what long term care workers do every day, with or without a quarantine.

Avoiding Misunderstandings

Persons with dementia take their cues from their caregivers. If you can be calm, and it is not always easy, they will follow. If you are stressed, and that is understandable, they will likely be stressed. It is hard to live in the moment, but that may be the best option. Focus on the person and the feelings. Sometimes, we just need a witness to our frustration. We need to feel that someone is there for us.

May we strive to be fully present for those who cannot be easily understood, and give them the kind of support and understanding they need. May we always find ways to help promote understanding and support. And may we be grateful and supportive of those who consistently support our loved ones with dementia, at their own expense.

Kathy Dreyer, Ph.D., is an Advisor at AGE-u-cate® Training Institute, which develops and delivers innovative research-based aging and dementia training programs such as Dementia Live® and Compassionate Touch®, for professional and family caregivers; kathy.dreyer@ageucate.com

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