Home > Behavior, Caregivers, Long-term care > A New Way of Looking at Things

A New Way of Looking at Things

There is a real paradigm shift taking place with regards to how we look at persons with dementia.  And it’s one that I’m thrilled to see happening.  Instead of seeing these people in terms of what they are no longer able to do, let’s look at what they CAN do.  In other words, let’s use these remaining skills to enable them to be as independent as they can be, for as long as they can be.

Here’s an example.  A man wanders constantly, walking around the unit all day long.  Now, some might see this as a behavior problem, and work hard trying to figure out how to get him to stay in one place.  But, let’s take another look.  This man is able to walk, unassisted.  When it’s time to eat, he can go to the dining room with minimal direction, possibly with some help to find his table.  His body gets plenty of benefits from being in better physical condition than someone who spends her day sitting in a wheelchair.  If he’s at risk for aspiration because of swallowing problems, by moving around he’s exercising his lungs.  And, chances are he’s better able to cough up anything that doesn’t belong in his lungs, as a result.

Or think about the woman who is found eating her breakfast oatmeal with an empty jelly packet.  A helpful staff member might sit down next to this woman and begin to feed her, assuming that she can no longer feed herself.  But what that staff member didn’t notice was that the woman had dropped her spoon, and had to find something else to eat her oatmeal with.  She actually showed some very good problem solving skills, finding a way to feed herself with what tools she had access to.  Now, the question that should be asked here is this:  Are there other situations where this woman might be able to figure out another way to do something, given a little support from her caregivers?

The next time you see someone with dementia doing something that looks inappropriate, or problematic, stop for a minute.  See if you can figure out WHY that behavior is occurring.  Unless that behavior is obviously dangerous for the person or for others, is there some way you can USE that behavior in a constructive manner?  And, as a result, be happier and more fulfilled?  And, possibly, live longer?

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