Mental Strategies for You When Your Loved One Lives with Dementia

So how? How do you let it strengthen you instead of define or destroy you?

According to Neuroscientist Dr Caroline Leaf – – “… it is important to ‘reconceptualize’ negative thoughts. Reconceptualization is seeing things from a different angle, or redesigning a thought … you choose to see a situation or experience differently, and give yourself a new way of understanding it … as you start looking at this situation or experience differently, all the chemicals, hormones and so on start flowing differently, and actually change the physical structure of your thoughts!”

She suggests to “… do a ‘mental autopsy.’ Analyze the situation like a doctor would analyze a body … What are you dreading this week? … Is it really as bad as you think? … Ask yourself lots of “why/who/what/when/how” questions! The key to a good “mental autopsy” is understanding. When you start to understand your experiences and mindsets, you can reconceptualize them (or redesign them) and learn from them, which helps you stop overthinking …”

In light of this, thinking back to my ‘long farewelling’ journey, I found the following helpful:

  • When negative emotions and thoughts started to overwhelm me, I would remind myself of the aspects I could be grateful for, instead of just focusing on the difficulty of the whole situation. For example, being thankful that they were being cared for instead of being distressed that they had to be in a home.
  • When my mind wandered into the future and into fear of what could maybe happen, I would remind myself that I don’t know the future and to focus on what was happening in the present. For example, my mind would dread that my Mum would die before my Dad, as he depended on her a lot. As it turned out she did, she did die first. While it was a very difficult time, I was able to get through, whereas I had thought I just wouldn’t be able to cope. So with hindsight, I know now that I wasted time dreading something that wasn’t as impossible as I had envisioned. I hope this encourages you, the readers of this blog, to keep your mind from dreading future scenarios.
  • To negate the feelings of helplessness, I would try to figure out some new way of helping my parents and think through what they may need. For example, thinking of outings or things to do with them that would make them happy. I also would ask questions and try to educate myself about what was happening to them so I could understand and use that understanding to think of ways to enhance their quality of life.

I hope this provides a little bit of help for you navigating this arduous journey of ‘a long farewell’. Feel free to share your story and ways you have been able to ‘reconceptualize’.

2 thoughts on “Mental Strategies for You When Your Loved One Lives with Dementia

  1. Such a timely post for me this week. My mum is probably in the early stages of dementia and i’m struggling so much. Thank you for providing this Monica, there is very little out there.


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