Dementia: Stop Talking: Start Listening

It is time for us all to change the way we interact with Maureen. We need to become listeners, rather than talkers, so the we can begin to understand her reality, and provide appropriate responses to her needs. This is going to present a significant challenge to yours truly.   Having found a listener I now need to  become one myself: no simple task for someone who is often seeking an audience for his take on life.

Maureen has been in bed for over 12 hours now: totally wiped out by the last couple of days.  I would anitcipate she is likely to be asleep for a while longer yet.  I am hoping that we will be able to limp back to Cleethorpes this afternoon. The trip to Nottingham has been a revelation. It has helped me to increase my understanding of Maureen’s reality and capacity.  I could write volumes on what I have heard, and seen, but I am opting to summarise with bullet points:

  • Maureen has struggled to find her way around a small bungalow.

  • She is anxious about saying or doing the wrong thing.

  • Nottingham brings back many painful memories.

  • Her nurturing nature remains intact: she would like to help her sister.

  • She prefers Cleethorpes to Nottingham.

  • It would be unkind, and unfair, to try to travel further south.

  • Maureen’s confusion about: time, person and place is becoming greater.

  • Staying in other people’s homes is no longer a sensible option: it is too disruptive on their routines.

Several people have helped to cajole Maureen to venture beyond Cleethorpes. I am unclear in whose interest our efforts have really been. It is no longer my opinion that encouraging Maureen outside her comfort zone is the way forward. I have no idea what it is like to have dementia or live with dementia. My perspective is only gained from living with someone who has dementia.

I am absolutely certain that the most appropriate response to Maureen’s presentation, at this moment in time, is to continue to seek to minimise distress. This will not be a simple task; as it has to involve attempting to inform others of what might be needed at any moment in time. Such efforts may not increase my standing in the popularity stakes.  I hope others will accept that being with Maureen 24/7 and listening to her, as dementia marches relentlessly on, gives me a perspective that is worth considering.

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