The reality we live in is not the reality of someone living with dementia. It is hard to understand the importance of being independent until one has lost the ability and becomes dependent upon others. It can be very terrifying to trust someone else to take care of you. Imagine that tomorrow someone you don’t really know comes to see you and starts demanding that you allow them to help you with very personal needs. Just yesterday, you were an independent adult but today others are performing tasks you think you can do; how would you respond?
People with dementia do not know or understand that they have dementia; this is the one good thing about living with the diagnosis, the ignorance of their condition. This blessing also makes daily life difficult since living with dementia is exhausting and terrifying for everyone impacted by this disease. Supporting the individual to feel more in control of their life will result in a positive attitude with less dementia-related behaviors.
Caring for someone living with dementia can be very challenging. This does not mean that you stop asking someone with dementia what they want to do. We are partnering with them to help them care for themselves. It is best to lead and guide them and make sure they have choices. For example, today is the day to take a shower. If we were to ask them if they wanted a shower, the easiest response for someone with dementia is no. That is not the choice we need to present to them. The choices that should be presented is the time of day to bathe, the method to bathe, and the pace of the process to bathe. It is very important that they participate in their care as much as they can.
Living with dementia takes so much. The importance of choice cannot be overlooked. Family, friends, and caregivers will all see a positive outcome when offering choices to those with dementia.