Misperception of “reality”

So this week I begin my training with the Alzheimer’s Association, and I’m looking forward to developing an in-depth knowledge about this disease.  I have already learned some important things through some of the lunch-and-learn events I have attended.  Even though I might not use the right terminology, I’ll share one with you.

“Back in the day”, a person’s misperception of reality was handled in a completely different way.  For example, if an elderly lady were to say, “Have you seen my mom today?”, people were to respond in a way as to orient the person to reality.  So one would say, “No, your mother died several years ago, remember?”  What this succeeded in doing was making the death of this person’s mother an instant, current reality.  It’s as if she JUST learned that her mother died, obviously causing her extreme distress.  This distress should never be underestimated.  For her, this “new” information is REAL, even though it happened long ago. 

The current way, and actually a much more effective way, to handle this situation would be to simply say “No, I haven’t seen your mom today” and then redirect the person’s attention to something different.  That’s the truth and she won’t be traumatized again by the loss of her mother.  And (fortunately and unfortunately) in a few minutes, she’ll probably forget she even asked.

Bottom line – why create a situation in which people with dementia could be re-traumatized by past unpleasant events.  There is enough to cope with in the present without having to be reminded that they can’t remember something from the past, especially something unpleasant and obviously beyond any control.  Keep their current “reality” going in a positive direction and always remember they are doing the very best they can to keep things straight.

As far as yoga, class yesterday went great!  We have added some silly, non-yoga “poses” that make everyone laugh.  I added in some strength-building exercises that everyone admitted were challenging, and I’m doing two sets of a standing series to help with balance.  And I can tell balance in the group is DEFINITELY improving.  I told them that every week we work together, all these poses will become easier and easier, and then I’ll have to figure out something NEW to challenge them with.  Everyone seemed eager to find out what the “new thing” will be.  What a terrific group!

And what a great journey thus far.  I’ll keep you posted!

Be well.

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