Many of us who have had older GPS devices recall hearing the announcement “recalculating” when we’ve gone off course while traveling because we’d missed a turn or the usual road was closed due to unexpected construction. Though frustrating, we simply grit our teeth, mutter a few words of discontent, recalculate, and take an alternate route. When caring for a person who lives with dementia, we can sometimes run into a similar problem as dementia slowly closes pathways in the brain that we’ve become accustomed to using to communicate effectively. But all too often, we try to continue on our way, becoming frustrated when our loved one isn’t responding in a way we’ve come to expect. When this happens, we need to take a step back, breathe and recalculate. When a person with dementia is struggling to communicate, it may be time for us to consider changing direction. Just like a map, our brains offer alternative routes, even when affected by dementia. We just need to look for them. When visiting with our loved ones, we always want to give them the best opportunity to benefit in some way from the engagement. We want to get to a place where we can be with them for a little while, to make a connection. But sometimes we have to be willing to go another way. So, the next time you find yourself at a standstill when visiting; stop, recalculate, and change direction. Try singing or humming an old familiar song together, reciting a well-known poem or prayer, discussing a treasured family photo, or even indulging in a favorite dessert, and watch as the communication barrier that is dementia, starts to fade away and new roads and pathways open up as you help each other along the way. After all, you’re on this trip together.
Vincent Baglivo, CDP
Certified Dementia Practitioner
Memory Care Advocate