When I sleep at night, one thing I love having with me is my heating pad. It feels so warm against my skin. I keep it on low. I cannot sleep without this by my side.

Another thing I have when I go to bed is water so I can sip on it when I get thirsty.

Until now, no one else knew these things. So, I need to make a “comfort list.” We all do. There might come a day when we develop a form of dementia and will not be able to verbalize our needs.

If we cannot tell someone what we need to help us be comfortable then we are probably going to cry or act out until someone figures it out. So why not let the family know what makes us feel good?

I interviewed some of our caregivers and employees and listed a few things that they will put on their lists – items that help them feel safe and comfortable, words and actions that help them feel loved and respected. This is a compilation of our thoughts.

Just in case I get dementia:

  • I want friends and family to embrace my reality. If I think my spouse is still alive, let me believe this. It makes me happy.
  • Do not treat me like a child. I am not a child. Talk to me like an adult.
  • I still want to enjoy the things that I’ve always enjoyed. Help me find a way to exercise, read or listen to a book, be outside, and visit with friends.
  • Allow me to have control over what I can still control.
  • Have plenty of snacks in the house. When I get hungry I can get angry.
  • When I do get angry, try to figure out what is wrong with me – don’t just ignore me. Be patient.
  • Don’t talk about me as if I were not in the room. I can hear you.
  • Ask me to tell a story from my past. Show me some pictures from my past.
  • Please make sure my favorite music is playing sometime during the day. I will leave a list of my favorite tunes.
  • Dance and laugh with me.
  • Please understand I still need hugs and handshakes. Do not exclude me. Smile at me if I make a mistake; hug me and tell me it is okay.

Trying to understand what makes someone with dementia feel good can be the secret to better days for a much longer period of time. It is difficult to discuss these things now, but making a list can be a great start.

Think about how important creature comforts are to us and how much we would miss them if we could not tell someone. Start making that list now. And be sure to let someone know where it is!

Karen Doughtie is assistant director of Memory Matters, serving Bluffton and Hilton Head. karen@memory-matters.org