Q: DEAR Miss Regina, I am feeling lost. My granny calls me several times in the day while I am at work to complain that my mum has not called her even when she has. We know it is the dementia.
She calls other relatives and we all participate in looking out for her. My granddad died a few years back and Granny is living on her own. Mummy takes her to church every Sunday and sets her medication for the week and takes her for lunch every Wednesday.
She is doing okay so far on her own with everyone checking in and my sister stops by on Tuesdays and I visit her with my family on Saturdays. We all help her and it is still so hard. Her constant calling us and complaining about the other family member is draining as well as asking what time or day it is. Is there something we can do other than repeating the answers patiently?
A: Great family support and, yes, continue with the calm repeated answers. Repeated times and date questions can be decreased with large calendars and digital or/and voice clocks. Most importantly is understanding that her idle time is not a comfort to her as she may be feeling that she needs to do something. She may need a structured schedule of doing something.
If she was a busy person always taking care of family, work or the home, it is in her bones to always be in the “doing” mode. When her time is idle, she becomes lost, confused and sometimes scared, so the calling starts.
When making her schedule, do it with her and choose things that she likes and enjoys that have meaning to her. It is not the entertainment — it is the feeling of being of value to others and society. Even if she does not do a perfect job completing a task, it is the action of doing and feeling like she is contributing.
Try not to focus on the task as much and pay attention to how it makes her feel. She still has the same feelings as you and I. She is just challenged at communicating this to you on command. You will know as she will push away or you can see her engaged. Don’t be afraid to try something. Keep trying — the calling will slow down once she feels she has something to do that makes her feel valued. Think of things she used to do and figure out how you can modify them so she can feel successful. It is wonderful to see family team work.
Q: Hello Regina, Can supplements help people with dementia?
A: Yes and no. The person with dementia has to be able to absorb the vitamins. There are good vitamins and not so good vitamins. Most vitamins do not have side effects and support health. Everyone’s body responds differently just like with medication. There is still no one fix-all.
There are false vitamins with fancy packaging that do nothing to support health. Do your homework. Research the company and the vitamin itself. Talk to your nutritionist, herbalist, naturopath practitioner or scientist who understands a holistic approach to health. If the person only focuses on vitamins and not of the health of the person, chances are they will miss the point.
It is better to eat your vitamins than take a supplement. But sometimes we do not have access to what our body may need and taking a vitamin is important for overall health. Especially since our soil to grow our foods are lacking in the high minerals they once had when our great grand parents had their gardens. With all the toxins farmers spray to mass produce and make them look good, we simply are not getting what we need on a daily basis. We either over-eat unhealthy foods or not eat enough of the right foods. A lot of us are a hot mess when it comes to our diet and vitamins. But it is not too late to change and eat smart.
Memory Café: Memory Café is designed to be a social time for families living with dementia symptoms. It is a safe place where people with dementia and their care partners can come together with other families with similar situations. There is usually an activity that all can be a part of if they choose to participate.
Families can enjoy the social time and refreshments at no cost to them. The cost of care is so high that many families do not go out for fun activities or they don’t want to deal with the discrimination related to the stigma surrounding dementia. I am hopeful that in time people will change their minds about people whose minds have changed and treat all humans with dignity and respect. Look for upcoming Memory Café at Island Mix in August.
Send questions and stories to firstname.lastname@example.org or text 758-486-4509.