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Developing Patience for Alzheimer's Caregiving

Posted by on 3/23/2016
Caregivers of people with Alzheimer's and dementia know they need to have patience. But, of course, that is often easier said then done.  In my recent quest to learn more about living in the moment - which you could call mindfulness - I came across the podcast, "Why We Need a Little More Patience" from meditation educator, Michelle Garcia. Her words are directed to the everyday adult living in a busy world, not a dementia caregiver, but I found her main messages to be very appropriate for a caregiver.  Below are her main messages and how I see they could be applicable to dementia caregiving.  I would also encourage you to listen to the podcast, as you may glean your own helpful insights.

The Mindset of Patience for an Alzheimer's Caregiver

Cultivating a mindset of patience in caregivers can be helpful both for the caregiver and person with dementia.  Of course, dementia is one of the most trying and challenging medical conditions out there, so being patient at all times will be impossible - it is impossible for any human being. But there are ways of thinking about dementia and how you approach the person that can help a caregiver develop and grow their level of patience.

Michelle suggests that are 3 things to learn about patience:

We can't control what is going on, but we can control how we react to it.

It can be easy for a caregiver to become frustrated when the person with dementia does something wrong, repeats him or herself, is going to slow, or does not do something that is asked of him or her. Stress levels can quickly rise. But the fact is that these circumstances are truly due to symptoms of the person's brain disease and cannot be helped. The person himself cannot control it, so certainly the family member or caregiver cannot control it.  When a caregiver remembers that "it's the disease", they can be more patient and understanding and keep the stress level more in check.

tips for dementia caregiving-patience


Step back and take a deep breath

This one can be soo hard! You are used to talking to your spouse, mom, dad, sibling - whomever the person with dementia in your life is - just like you always have and like you do with the other adults in your life. You are used to the normal back and forth exchange of words and emotions.  But when you communicate and react to the person with dementia just the same as you would have in the past, you set yourself up for failure (see helpful communication tips for dementia).  Instead, work on taking a pause when the person does or says something that does not make sense or that is even not nice.  Take a breath, refocus and think, and then respond in the way you want both with your words and your tone.  Taking your time to respond will, in fact, not only help you but will help the person, as well, because their rate of thinking is slower than yours. In most cases, there is no need to have an instant response to what they say or do unless, of course, it involves the person's safety.

We are all just doing the best we can

The world today is fast paced and people can get used to wanting things to happen quickly.  But we cannot control how fast the people around us do things, especially when it comes to the person with dementia.  As mentioned above, the person with Alzheimer's or other dementia has slower thinking; there world is much smaller and slower paced. Remembering to be patient and understanding that the person is just doing the best that he or she can can help things go more smoothly.  And this applies to you the caregiver, as well. Be patient with yourself and know you are doing the best that you can.

I hope these ideas about patience are helpful to you.  Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

For more helpful dementia care tips, click below:


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2 Comments

Monica from MindStart
Date: 3/31/2016
So glad it was helpful for you Dorothy. Caregivers are true warriors, so need all kinds of tools for the job!
dorothy hinman
Date: 3/31/2016
Thanks -- really needed this today. I will save it and put the quote on my mirror to remind me.

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