“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.” – Helen Keller

Facilitating support groups at Memory Matters truly is one of my passions. The Wednesday support group focuses on problem solving, ranging from better communication with the loved one with dementia to issues about bathing, dressing, eating and more.

One of the goals for caregivers is to not only to help themselves, but also to support their friends in the group.

One recent week, we talked about how tiring it can be to get their partners up and going. For example: “Honey, get up and shower, then get dressed, and then come eat breakfast.” Then the caregiver leaves the person alone to accomplish those tasks.

The group shared that their partners do not want to get up, they do not want to get dressed, and they do not want to take a shower.

The word “want” kept bubbling up.

But, the word should be “can’t.”

These loved ones can’t shower on their own. They can’t get dressed on their own. When the caregiver leaves the room for them to just “get up and get going,” the loved one doesn’t know what to do. They cannot do this on their own anymore.

The group decided they needed to change their approach. I challenged them to come back the next week with a creative idea to help their loved one get ready for the day. John (not his real name) was having a very difficult time getting his wife to take a shower. He found himself barking orders at her.

The previous week, I had asked him what would motivate her. “Music,” he said. “She loves music.”

He began playing her favorite songs in the morning. She was so happy she jumped out of bed. Her anxiety was decreased and so was his. Mission accomplished!

When I saw his wife in the program, I asked her how her morning went and she said, “Great! I danced all morning.”

Sometimes caregivers forget that their loved ones can wake up anxious, depressed and foggy. Here are some ideas to help ease the stress:

  • Try to be creative in the morning. Try taking his favorite juice in to him.
  • Light a candle that has a calming scent.
  • Try to be calm and present with positive body language.
  • Allow plenty of time to get ready before any outing.

The journey is a long one and learning new techniques can help caregivers understand what their loved ones can and can’t do anymore. The one with the healthy brain – the caregiver – can set the tone for the rest of the day. Knowledge is power.

As a reminder, the fall session of Brain Boosters will start on Sept. 19. This class fills up fast, so call now. We also have a few openings in our Connections program, designed for persons with early memory loss.

For information about services at Memory Matters, call 843-842-6688 or visit www.memory-matters.org.

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