Feeling the fear
- Posted by admin
- On 21st December 2015
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- #AlzheimersShow, #alzshow, activities, Admiral Nurses, Age UK, alzheimer's, calm, caring, confusion, Daily Care, disease, fear, fearful, living with, practical, progression, relative, tasks
A person with dementia can become fearful over everyday tasks and activities that most of us take for granted. Christina Macdonald explains how to calm them down
When you are caring for a person with dementia, the learning never stops. Ideas can backfire. Something that seems like a good idea, such as taking someone out for a meal or a treat can go badly wrong.
My mother Hazel has vascular dementia and is in the mid to late stages of the disease. A few days ago, I decided to take her to the hairdressers for a much-needed wash, cut and blow-dry. She had been refusing to have her hair done for a long time, but it needed doing and I pretty much insisted that we go as I felt that a change of scenery would do her good.
At first she was quite relaxed about the idea and seemed comfortable being in the hairdressers. She had a friendly conversation with the hairdresser and things started well. But when it came to shampooing her hair, she became very distressed with the water on her head and having her hair shampooed. The hairdresser had to work fast and get the job done as swiftly as possible, while I had to sit nearby and offer constant reassurance. For most of us, having our hair done feels like a treat. For someone like mum, who is easily confused and often fearful, the trauma of having water on her head and a stranger touching her was too much.
Not long after that, mum was calm again when back in her favourite, familiar chair with a cup of tea and her usual box of chocolate biscuits. But I realised that the learning never stops. You can never predict a person’s mood and how they will react in certain situations. All you can do is try your best to remain calm and offer them reassurance if they do become stressed.
I’ve also noticed that mum has become generally much more afraid and fearful of daily events that most of us take for granted. Going out is a traumatic experience on a bad day. A few months ago, I had to take her for a hospital appointment. We hired a black cab and the driver couldn’t have been more courteous. The trip was just a short ten-minute drive. During those ten minutes, mum was convinced that we were going to have an accident even though the driver was driving safely and cautiously.
It’s important to remember that fear can be a common part of dementia. And it makes sense when you think about it. If you have a tendency to forget whom your loved ones are, where you live, what you have to do today or how old you are, it’s natural that you’re going to be fearful and suffer from anxiety from time to time.
When someone is fearful, reassure the person calmly and quietly and if you can, try to avoid the situation that’s causing the fear or cut it short. On the return journey from hospital, I made sure mum had enjoyed a cup of tea and some biscuits in the hospital café, so that she was in a good mood before we got back in the cab again.
Everyone is unique
I’ve also realised that situations can be completely unique for everyone. No two people are the same. This is why it would be useful to hear from you and learn more about the challenges you are facing, either as a person with dementia or as a carer. What do you find most difficult? What aspects of dementia would you like to understand more about? What sort of information would be useful to you? Would you like to know more about receiving or providing care, obtaining financial support or how to deal with the progression of dementia? Or any other topics I haven’t mentioned? Email me your thoughts and let me know what you would like to read about, as my experiences may well be unique and we would like to ensure that the site contains a wide range of information that you’ll find really useful. You can email me at email@example.com
Oh, in case you were wondering, mum will be having a dry cut next time.