The Whitworths of Arizona, bringing science to you in everyday language.

Friday, December 22, 2017

I Want to Go Home, Part Two

Merry Christmas everyone!

A month ago, the blog was about the PlwD* who wanted to go home and suggested that the care partner would get further if they first saw the issue from the PlwD's point of view: That "home" equaled comfort and discomfort equaled "not home." If you haven't read that already, I'd suggest that you do it now. Just click here.

When you try to convince your loved one that they are indeed home, this feels to them like they are being lied to which generates more negative feelings, over and above the ones of discomfort that initated the feeling of not being home in the first place. That is a very short synopsis of that blog, but if you haven't read it, you would do well to do so before you read further here.

The first step is to validate the PlwD's feelings:
  • Unless you validate PlwD's negative feelings, you will not be able to redirect them to something more positive.
Try it. Imagine you are the PlwD and someone tells you that you are wrong. "But I know," you say. "I know that this isn't my home." If that person still insists on their way, what happens to your negative feelings? Did they increase? Now imagine that the person said something like, "OK, but I need to do something first." or "Tell me about home" or speaks to your feelings by saying something like "That must feel scary?" Can you feel the release? Can you feel the relief that being heard, being understood brings?
  • The PlwD have a short attention span. Once the negative feelings are deflected, they can be redirected.
Try it: First imagine that you are experiencing the above negative feelings. Can you feel the resistance to a distraction, like the offer of a cookie? That's normal. The job of negative feelings is to keep a person on tract until the need is met. Next, re-imagine the release you felt when you were validated. Now how about that cookie? Notice how much more receptive you feel. With fewer negative feelings, you can respond to the positive feelings engendered by the idea of a yummy cookie.

And so the bottom line is:
  •  Speak to the underlying feelings instead of arguing, explaining or reasoning.
Once the negative feelings have been validated their job is done and they will leave.
  • The PlwD lives in a black and white, either/or world. Either they are angry or they aren't. Either they are happy or they aren't. Therefore, once the angry feelings are validated, the PlwD is open to distraction almost immediately.
Then you can deflect the PlwD's train of thought with something they enjoy and it will usually work. By the time they've had their treat, they will likely be even more relaxed and will have forgotten their prior anxiety.

Another method:

If the PlwD is mobile enough for causal car trips, agree to take them home, but stop "on the way" for a treat. As above, when the PlwD feels heard, their negative feelings decrease enough to be replaced by the positive ones from the ride and the treat and the changed environment. Since they can't think of more than one thing at a time, they "forget" their concern about their home. By the time they return, they will usually "see" it as their home, especially if you make sure there are plenty of positive feelings accompanying the return...smiles, hugs, and such--remember "comfort" means "home."

We love and welcome comments but we will not print any that advertise a product or a commercial website. This is especially true for testimonials about miraculous Parkinson's cures.

* Acronyms:
LBD: Lewy body dementia
PD: Parkinson's disease
PlwD, LBD, DLB, MCI, PD, PDD, etc: person/people living with dementia
(Substitute your loved ones name here!)
DLB: dementia with Lewy bodies
PDD: Parkinson's disease with dementia
MCI: mild cognitive impairment
MCI-LB: the form of MCI that precedes LBD
BPSD: behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia

For information about Lewy body disorders, read our books:
A Caregivers’ Guide to Lewy Body Dementia
Managing Cognitive Issues in Parkinson's and Lewy Body Dementia

Helen and James Whitworth are not doctors, lawyers or social workers. As informed caregivers, they share the information here for educational purposes only. It should never be used instead of a professional's advice.

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