Think before you react

A friend asked me a couple of days ago whether I believed that someone living with dementia may not remember what you said but would always remember how you made them feel.  This is a statement often made and was I think a very good question.  I read the email just before I went to bed and spent quite a portion of the night when I couldn't sleep thinking about it (this was good as it saved me from the boredom I usually feel when I'm lying awake at night).  I think that one offs probably won't be remembered and there's a section in 'Contented Dementia' (by Oliver James)where Penny Garner tells us how to flip a difficult situation so we know it's possible to turn things around when we've got it wrong as long as we're quick enough.  None of us is a saint and it's impossible to be calm and collected at all times but I think the problem comes when someone is cross all the time.  I've seen this on forums many times and have actually left them for that reason as I found it very worrying.  For the first three months after Ash's diagnosis (and many months/years leading up to it) I was cross with him and at the world for not giving me the life I was expecting.  As a result Ash was permanently in a state of turmoil and really struggled to cope with life which put us in a downward spiral of distress and chaos.  Once I understood the effect my attitude was having on him and changed the way I behaved the difference in him was almost instantaneous.  He was calmer, interested in life around him, remembered people etc etc.  Even now if I'm having a bad day his dementia is much worse so I stay calm as much as I possibly can but as much for my sake as his.  People have said how much better it will be for Ash when I finish work next week and how important it is to put family first but really I think I'm putting me first as I need to do this for my sanity and that's what I realised about the importance of keeping the peace.  So going back to the question, I think a 'one off' battle will be forgotten (but only if you manage to flip it and finish on a good note so that's the bit to practice) but an on-going battle is bad for everyone and will only serve to make life so much more difficult than it needs to be.  Dementia has taught me that life is too short to be unhappy and changing my behaviour has meant that laughter has come back into our lives.  Why wouldn't we all want a piece of that?

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