“Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.”

– Pope John XXIII

Living with someone who has dementia is unpredictable and can be a long journey. In my last article, I wrote about asking our support group to set reasonable goals to improve their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

Some did well; some did not make an effort. We will focus on the ones who want a better life. These are some wonderful ideas.

  1. One caregiver decided he needed to grow his network of friends. This had to change because his “friends” starting dropping like flies after his spouse was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. This caregiver realized some friends were in the support group. Several people have connected outside the support group and have been bowling together, going to movies and walking on a regular basis.
  2. Another caregiver decided that it was time for her and her spouse to get in shape. She decided to plan a walk every day for 30 minutes. She also decided to start wearing a pedometer to record her steps, and now she is driven to reach 10,000 steps per day.
  3. (I love this one.) A wife decided she was going to find a trip that she could take with her spouse.

She found a cruise that left from Charleston, and now she has something to look forward to this spring.

  1. (This is another great one.) A small group of caregivers who have loved ones in the early stages of Alzheimer’s are planning monthly dinners. Sometimes they take walks before dinner or play ring toss and other games, and after dinner they put on some fun music and do a bit of dancing.
  2. (This was my favorite.) One caregiver made a promise to never say “no” to someone that offers to help. Sometimes people are sincere about wanting to help, but need a specific task, for example preparing dinner twice per month, taking a ride or a walk, or sitting in for a few hours so the caregiver can get out.

People really do want to help. Help other people understand the disease, and learn to be comfortable letting them spend time with your loved one.

I recommend that caregivers prepare a toolbox filled with things that their loved one enjoys. Add CDs of their favorite music, a balloon for tossing, pictures, ring toss or other physical games. These are things we use in our program with great success.

Having goals is so important. If you need suggestions call Memory Matters at 843-842-6688. We can help.

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