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  • Writer's pictureTim and Lindsey

Contented Dementia and a change of home (Day 154)

We meet such interesting people using Airbnb and discuss a whole change of subjects. Today one of the subjects was about having contented dementia.

Our housesitting hosts contacted us early morning to ask if we can delay coming round til midday. Luckily our Airbnb hosts were very accommodating and were fine with us staying there rather than roaming the streets of Seaford with our bags. And we are so glad that they did.

We were inspired by our Japanese travelling conversation from the day before and our host Nev lent us the Lonely Planet book on Japan. It seemed like a good opportunity to do a bit of research of the country. We prefer not to plan much, however, like a lot of countries we have visited, we need an exit flight before entering and need to book this soon. Decisions like how long do we want to spend in Japan and how much of the country do we want to see are to be made.

Nev and Liz later joined us in their beautiful garden. It is very enclosed with bushes and climbers around a seating area; very eclectic with lovely ornaments, paintings, a big yellow fire and brightly coloured walls and cushions dotted about. So relaxing. We had such a wonderful chat, mainly about travelling and families. I shared about my Mum who sadly has late stages of dementia and Liz shared that she has early stages of dementia. I was astounded and felt it was so brave of her to share this with us, and wise.

When issues are out in the open, it can diminish the issue. My Mum and Dad wouldn’t discuss the fact that Mum was ill, Dad would have sneaky telephone calls with us about her illness and the effects of her behaviour, and then if she walked into the room, he would quickly change the subject and talk about the garden. Personally I believe it is beneficial for people to talk openly about subjects such as these illnesses and death. We can learn from one another, share concerns, and perhaps see things from different perspectives. It seems that both Nev and Liz are taking each day as it comes, staying present. By being open about her illness, people have an understanding of why she may repeat herself or ask the same questions.

When we discovered that our Mum had dementia, we were informed about a book called Contented Dementia by Oliver James and a charity Contented Dementia Trust who run great workshops for carers. The book and workshop are both fantastic and describes using a metaphor that the memory is like a Photograph Album with each individual memory stored as a photo in our Album with an associated feeling attached to each one. As the dementia progresses, some of the recent photos become blank and as the illness gets worse, then more become empty.

The book also guides the reader how best to communicate with someone with this illness and the three golden rules are

1. Don’t ask direct questions.

For example rather than “do you want a cup of tea?” you may say “I fancy a cup of tea” and they may then intimate that they want one as well.

2. Listen to the expert (the person with dementia) and learn from them.

Listen to what they are asking. Consider very carefully what the best answer might be from their perspective rather than your own. For people with dementia, feelings are more important than facts. It is crucial that the information they receive generates good feelings for them. If they ask “where is the dog?”, and it died 5 years ago, you don’t need to say it has died, this will only keep upsetting them. Avoid leaving them with anxieties that they cannot explain a few moments later.

3. Don’t contradict:

Arguing with them does not help. They will be using memories from their photo album that they can still see – we need to step into their shoes, listen and take note of the language and actions they are using and follow them.

So many of us have a family members or friends who has this debilitating illness. The more we understand and see that by changing our way of communicating, the more we can ensure the well-being of people with dementia, the carers and ourselves.

Back to Seaford, we suddenly realised the time – finished packing our bags, got Nev’s phone number to keep in touch and return the Japan Guide Book and off to our home for the next 2 weeks. Our host was just packing his car, so handed the keys and we went in to a rather bewildered and excited Murphy. We stayed calm, and within a few moments Murphy also had calmed down.

So far so good. He has followed our orders and been very well behaved. We took him out for a walk to the Supermarket – I stayed outside with him whilst Tim did the shopping and then returned via the beach. Yes, the beach is literally across the road – 5 minutes away! We came across The Beach Café with a metal chainmail statue outside with a hand holding a fish. It is amazing the artwork that people create. Sadly the café was closed, however we have plenty of time in the next few weeks to visit it.

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