Wouldn’t it be amazing if dementia came with an instruction manual? There are plenty of books out there that give you the impression that if you just follow these five simple steps or if you do what this professional says your life will be a piece of cake. And we read them, devour them, and hang our hopes on these steps and tricks only to be disappointed or more frustrated. They didn’t work the way we wanted. They might have helped, but only momentarily. Why? Because they forgot the biggest part of dementia care. Each person is different. Each comes with their own history, coping skills, and quirks.
Why am I sharing this? Because we all want to know the right thing to do at the right time. We’re barely treading water and will latch onto any life ring we can find. I’m here to tell you that you’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to snap at your loved one when you know you shouldn’t. You’re going to forget that they don’t remember and get frustrated. You’re going to doubt all of your life choices and think about running away. It’s all normal. Forgive yourself and move forward with this new information. Instead of viewing mistakes as failures, choose to see them as learning opportunities. If you have children, you know this is how you became a better parent. Kids don’t come with instruction manuals either. We learned as they grew. It works the same when living with someone with dementia.
Each person living with dementia is unique. While the disease process may be similar, the experience is purely individual. Same for you. Your special talents, skills, and life experience colors how you will respond and react. Blanket recommendations and techniques have great aspects but may not work for you or your loved one. Find the bits that make sense to you and focus on those. Know that some things that sound ridiculous today may be perfect later. Stop beating yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know. None of us know everything. None of us. We each know just as much as we know right now, but we do have the capacity to learn as we go.
Be patient with yourself. You know your loved one best. And you know more than you think. Be open to new ideas and suggestions, but know that not everything is for everyone. You are amazing and can do hard things. You are writing the instruction manual as you go. By trying different things and learning what works for you and what doesn’t, you are formulating your success. Trust yourself. You’ve got this!