Repetition can be one of the hardest challenges for carers. The constant asking of the same question can drive you to distraction.
With my friend Rosemary, Christmas displays in the shops since September have caused her great anxiety as it triggers a distant feeling of the pressure and expectations that the festive season can bring.
So every two to three minutes I hear the same question: “When is Christmas? When is Christmas?”
At first I answer the question, giving as much reassurance as I can.
“We have plenty of time. It’s not for a few weeks yet. And I will help you get ready. Don’t worry.”
But for someone who feels that she is losing time, it wasn’t really that helpful for Rosemary and even though her answer was:
“Thank you. That’s a weight off my mind.”
Her question popped up again a few minutes later.
It would be easy for me to say, “Now what have we just talked about?”Because there is a need to have a conversation that makes sense, have a purpose and to even correct if necessary.
But the answers don’t have to make too much sense. Or be corrected. They need to make Rosemary feel heard and involved. And once you can shed the social trappings and be able to go with the moment (and practice deep breaths for yourself) you both feel heaps better.
So I tried other things:
Reminiscence: “Tell me about a favourite Christmas”, which lead her away from her anxieties and calmed her.
I started singing Christmas carols, knowing that she loves music and that she will join in, distracting her in a meaningful and respectful way.
We have even started writing Christmas cards early so she feels involved.
So it’s not just about answering the question. It’s about being a detective and focusing on the emotion rather than the behaviour. It’s about looking at things through their eyes and embracing the need for us to make the change.
Phillippa Hodge- Positive Approach to Care Certified Trainer
Trained in 2017 by the international dementia care expert Teepa Snow MS,OTR/L,FAOTA, Phillippa is equipped to provide training to care professionals and families with the goal of helping them grow their dementia related awareness, knowledge and skill in order to improve the quality of life for people living with dementia.
If you would like to know more about our training please visit our training page.
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