Take baby steps.
My mum was diagnosed as having mild depression a year ago. She has no interest in a lot of her favourite activities and has to be reminded of the procedures needed to complete her daily routines such as taking a shower, having breakfast and going to the toilet. When we ask her anything, the answers are always “I don’t know.”, “Anything.” and “You tell me.”, which are also typical answers from patients with dementia. In my opinion as through my observation, she is showing slight signs of dementia, something that I’ve concluded after reading articles on the topic and attending a conference on dementia last month.
After the conference, I’ve tried to retrain and ‘reprogramme’ my brain, behaviour and attitude towards mum. My daily motto is now ‘Care, Love and Respect’ . With this in mind and equipped with a few tools, I attempt to imitate some of the changes that carers of old aged use when adapting their centre to a Montessori-based environment. As my mum is still able to read words and understand them, my first step is to help her to dress independently. So, I wrote a few basic steps on memo papers and stuck them on her dressing cupboard. Then, I placed her sarong, trousers and shirts on one section of the cupboard which she can see immediately at the level of her eyesight. As mum is able to recognise the different types of her clothes immediately, I don’t need to label them.
I introduced and reminded her to read the steps every time she enters the room, for what ever purpose. On the second night, she was able to dress independently from head to toe and ready to go out for dinner in a blink. This time she had to wait for my dad to get ready. On certain days, she comes out from the room without changing her shirt or trousers. And so, dad and I need to repetitively remind her.
I keep telling myself that this is a journey that our family must take together with mummy. We are not concern about the destination. Every episode of mistake, inaccuracy or forgetfulness has to be taken lightly and laughed out. We can’t afford to burn out for mum’s sake.
Once, mum read and followed the steps on the cupboard. As she arrived at the last step, mum jolted her head and exclaimed, “Hey not going anywhere yet, why take handbag?”. Yea mum, you were absolutely right! I gave out a hearty laugh at my silliness and mum’s rationality.
So remember, if your old folks are still able to read, make labels or instructions for them even when they are forgetful. This keeps them to focus and regain their independence and confidence. And you’ll never know what stories they might able to conjure from their, or your, silliness.
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