I ended my last blog with “Please don’t try to correct the person with Alzheimer’s/Dementia. Just be present in their reality, accepting where they are, in their world, at this moment, enjoying wherever the interaction takes you!”
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I have heard a great term for a method that can help us to do that very thing! It is called “Therapeutic fibbing”.
What is therapeutic fibbing?
“What, you say? How can I lie to the person that I love?” I know that we all want to tell the truth- but for a person withAlzheimer’s/Dementia, it is not always helpful. In fact it can actually cause your loved one increased stress and pain.
Therapeutic fibbing is defined by the Alzheimer’s Association as a controversial yet very effective method of dealing with the anxiety experienced by many people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. In other words, it is telling a “fib” in order to avoid increased anxiety and agitation in a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
What does therapeutic fibbing entail?
Imagine your loved one as they regress from the present into memories of their past. At the age of 90 they are now asking for their “Mommy and Daddy”. “ Where is my mother? Where is my father?”, they ask multiple times a day. Instead of telling the truth- “Oh they died several years ago”, remember, there is no reasoning with those with Alzheimer’s/Dementia. Instead, this truth will cause them sorrow and confusion as often as you tell that truth throughout the day. Instead, learn to say “Your dad is at work- he’s out plowing the field”, or “Your mother has run to the grocery store. She asked you to wait here. She knows you’re safe. I’m watching over you.”
Or, you may hear “Today’s my birthday! I’m 21!” Don’t say, “No it’s not! You just had your birthday, and you’re 82!” Instead….celebrate! Sing Happy Birthday….every day if you need to…. and participate in their happiness, however brief it is. It will bring both of you a moment of joy!
Learn to assume whatever role they assign you. As they move back through their memories, they may not recognize your face. YOU have gotten older, while they have gotten “younger”, but they will probably still recognize your voice. Daughters may be assigned the role of mother, sons may become a younger brother. Accept their reality and go there with them.
Please don’t try to correct your loved one, just be present in their reality, accepting where they are, in their world, at this moment. Enjoy wherever the interaction, however brief it may be, takes both of you! I think that you will find that this type of communication will be less stressful for all of you, and that in itself will create a moment of joy that can be treasured.