Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Caring styles

For a long time now, I've struggled with learning how to live with someone who has dementia and the occasional delusion. And how to love him and care for him.

A big part of this is learning to react, or rather, catching myself before I react with my gut.

So, when H comes to me and says he doesn't know how to operate his cell phone, well, I react with shock, dismay, and worry...and more than a bit of frustration (He thinks I'm angry at him, but I'm not.)

Awhile ago, I learned in a caregiving class (thank goodness for those!) that if someone is delusional, you can argue with them all you want, but they BELIEVE what they are saying is true and nothing you say will change that.

I've also recently learned that the style of caregiving affects the agitation level of he ill person.

If I react with a caring nature or a parental nature, then the ill person is less likely to become agitated than if I react and get agitated, worried, or angry. Now, those feelings are very real when things happen like he can't use his cell phone, forgot how to play chess, or doesn't remember the back routes through our neighborhood of 20+ years.

I am worried and afraid and angry and and and...normal human reaction to seeing someone you love decline. This is the partner part.

But as his caregiver, when I show those feelings, he gets agitated, worried, and generally upset (he thinks I'm mad at him or worse, that I want to divorce him).

So, I try not to show those feelings to him. I do believe that relationships are partially based on emotional honesty, but yet that isn't "indicated" in this case.

It's easier to have a caring or parenting style when the person is not your partner, I think. Then you can focus on the needs of that person. But as his partner, I have my own stuff about how he's doing...but that isn't something I can share with him.

How much can you withold from your partner and still claim that they really are your partner?

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