by Dr. Tiney Ray

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Let’s start with the obvious: Dementia is a tragic disease, one that typically takes years to play out. But we strongly caution people who have been diagnosed or the people who care for them that it’s a mistake to let the disease take the joy from life.

It’s not that powerful.

A dementia diagnosis, however, will require you to re-think how you may approach your relationship with that person or the people around them. Surprisingly, many people discover something very valuable when they do this.

The power—and the joy—of living in the moment.

Persons with dementia have bad days, but also many good ones. It is important to take advantage of the good ones, and not let them go unappreciated. This is important to both the person and the care partner.

And it can deliver much happiness for all.

When you let yourself appreciate the good times, it becomes easier to handle the many challenging issues of dementia. The good times can sustain and restore you. Here are some simple techniques you can use to make the most of the joyous moments:

  1. Slow down. Acknowledge the day and the activity at hand, whether it be something special like a family event or something simple like a relaxed conversation.
  2. Build routines that encourage the person with dementia to relax. Routine is very important; it’s the out-of-the-norm situations that can lead to confusion and stress. So with routines in place, triggers can be removed and individual happiness improved.
  3. Address immediate needs. Even with routines in place, care partners will discover that if something stands out—personal care or housekeeping—it can be important to take care of those things right away, removing a stress point and getting the person with dementia re-focused on what can be joyful.
  4. Encourage and acknowledge the person’s contributions to the activity or event. One of the most frightening elements of dementia is loss of control. So the more the person is able to contribute
    to an activity (even something as simple as grocery shopping), it can help alleviate these fears and boost happiness.

Even small moments and small things matter, and can make a huge difference. When you realize that, you discover joy in small places. Which is more than worthwhile.

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