One activity my mother always enjoyed was the van rides along the coast.
The facility where she stayed did this once or twice a week. She’d been living at this center for a few months when I arrived one day to see her emerging from the van. She had a smile on her face, and I greeted her warmly, telling her how happy I was that she’d just had a van ride. What she said next took my breath away.
“Well, at first I got really scared. I didn’t know where I was or where they were taking me, or who all these people were. Then I asked myself, what would Carla tell me? So, I took some breaths. Then I looked around. I looked out the window and saw that it was pretty outside. I looked around and saw that everyone in the van seemed nice and friendly. Then I was able to have a nice time!”
So, I took some breaths. Then I looked around. I looked out the window and saw that it was pretty outside. I looked around and saw that everyone in the van seemed nice and friendly. Then I was able to have a nice time!”
I couldn’t believe it. My mother, who couldn’t remember where she was, or what she’d eaten minutes before, was remembering how to use #mindfulness strategies to calm herself in moments of panic. It took a lot for me not to cry (I didn’t want to alarm her).
People with dementia can suffer horrors - not only forgetfulness but delusions. It hadn’t occurred to me that she might somehow absorb the #strategies to help herself, but she did, with repetition. When she went to her final care facility, her caregiver told me after she’d passed that my mom was her angel. Most of the clients there would panic, lash out and were therefore difficult to deal with, even sometimes physically violent (I can imagine - what a scary existence they must lead). By the time we’d moved my mom to this smaller. Residential facility, she’d become calmer. I don’t know if she fully remembered the strategies to use for herself, but I know there were far fewer panic attacks, and when I would lead her through her script, she would drop in much more quickly.
If you, or someone you know is suffering from memory loss or #dementia, try this technique with them. Try it often enough, and it just might sink in. I am thankful that it did for my mom.