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

Friday, June 22, 2018

Constructive Caring, #6: Dealing with Externals

The past blogs have mostly been about how you can think and act more constructively and make your own life and that of the PlwD's* happier, healthier and just plain easier. But sometimes, life intervenes and things beyond your control happen that are difficult to deal with. Nevertheless, you still have the power to choose how to deal with these unhappy events. By making conscious choices about how you view them, and how you think about them you can limit their negative effect on you and on your loved one.
  • Look for the blessings. Instead of complaining, look for how the situation adds something to your life...interest, learning, experiences, etc "The worst service I ever had" becomes, "I'm glad we went there. Now I'll know not to go again!" "I lost again. I'm so unlucky." becomes "I sure had fun playing that game with you."
  • Look for the silver lining even when things are truly bad and painful. You will naturally have some negative feelings--and rightfully so. Nevertheless, instead of allowing yourself to wallow in the negativity, look for that silver lining. "My mother has passed away and I really miss her but I feel so fortunate to have had her in my life."."
  • Avoid feeling guilty. People often use guilt as an effort to control past events--it doesn't work. Your guilt will not change anything except to make you feel worse. Instead make a conscious choice to find something to feel better about. Instead of "I feel so bad that I wasn't always a good daughter, think, "We had some great times together."
  • Look for the humor. Sometimes you may have to dig to find the positives but make it a fun challenge. "This trip is so disastrous that I know we'll laugh about later."
Criticism. One of the most difficult things a care partner has to deal with is criticism from family and even friends of a situation that they may not know as much as about as they think they do. Even when meant well, criticism can be difficult to deal with and if a person is already into self-blame, it can be catastrophic. Here are some guidelines to making criticism a little easier to deal with:
  • Listen carefully. This is often the hardest part, especially if you don't believe the criticism is fair.
  • Take a deep breath and think before you respond.
  • Who is this about? "Is this about me, or them?" Is the them the PlwD*, who feels bad, and sees you as responsible for everything. Is the them a family member who is in denial or uneducated about the situation?
  • Can this help me? Even if it is more about the other person than you, could the criticism be constructive? How? Will it add more information, more ideas? Or will it add to your own self-blame, guilt or worry?
  • Choose to reply or let it go. Feel free to ignore a criticism if it isn't helpful.
    --With the PlwD, you may have to respond in some way so that they feel heard, but then you can move the conversation on into something more positive.
    --With uneducated family members who see Showtime** as the PlwD normal behavior, you will have to decide if they will accept or understand further education about LBD. Printed handouts from the LBDA or a medical source may work better than your own explanations.
  • If you reply, stay positive, ask questions as needed and say "Thanks." Saying "Thanks" does not mean that you agree with the person, only that you appreciate their interest.
    --With a PlwD who is blaming you because of a delusion, you must not deny the accusation. Instead, become an improv actor and say you are sorry. (See blogs on dealing with delusions)
  • Review. Make a conscious choice to accept the critique as constructive if you can find anything of value in it. Then plan how you will make any needed changes. Otherwise, consider it destructive and therefore, not worth your time.
  • Let it go. Once you know of the issue (if there really is one), and have decided how to deal with it, the criticism's job is done.
Next week: On to happier topics, like how to have enjoy being positive and have fun with it.

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.

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

** Showtime: When a PlwD is experiencing a period of more than normal awareness. Often occurs with visiting family members or during doctor visits.

* Acronyms:
AD: Alzheimer's disease
BPSD: Behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia
DLB: Dementia with Lewy bodies, where cognitive/behavioral issues occur first
LBD: Lewy body dementia, an umbrella term for both DLB and PDD
LBDA: Lewy Body Dementia Association.
MCI: Mild cognitive impairment
MCI-LB: the form of MCI that precedes LBD
PD: Parkinson's disease
PDD: Parkinson's disease with dementia, where mobility issues occur first
PlwD: person/people living with dementia
PlwPD, LBD, PDD, AD, etc.: person/people living with PD, LBD, etc.

For more 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

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