It’s been four years since my dad, Denis, passed away after living with dementia for 11 years. My family and I did everything to make sure Dad enjoyed life, first during the early stages, and later when he lived in a care home. My experiences with my father inspired me to help others learn to appreciate quality time with a family member with dementia.
I come from a family of six kids and nine grandkids, and we worked together to support my mom, who was the main caregiver. Dad’s dementia progressed very gradually for a good eight years, and even when he and Mom moved from the farm in Letellier to Ile des Chênes, he kept active. He loved the outdoors and took pride in taking meticulous care of his yard, and he enjoyed doing the same for others.
When he started to forget things and become more confused, at first, I would try to correct him. Then I got involved in an Alzheimer Society support group for family members of people with dementia. They shared their stories, and I learned different ways to communicate with someone with dementia. I changed my approach with Dad – I started to just go with the flow of the conversation, wherever that would lead.
Here’s what I learned as I cared for Dad:
- People living with Alzheimer’s can stay active and contribute to a community.
- Alzheimer’s can steal someone’s memory, but it will always be part of you. My father was, is, and will always be my Superman…the way he lived his life is an example to me.
- It is important to focus on what the person remembers and feels about the moment, rather than what they have lost (memory).
- A person living with Alzheimer’s can feel your energy, even if few words are exchanged. Keep an open mind.
Understanding how to make Dad’s life better was important – he deserved that respect because he never stopped caring about all of us right up until the day he passed away. If I can help even one other family to have a similar positive experience, it will be worth it!
And remember, if you’re caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, and you have questions or you need to talk, contact your local Alzheimer Society. They are here to help.
Let Dan help you understand. Visit ilivewithdementia.ca to learn more about people like Dan and his father.